Dario Fo, Brzezinski, and Freedom Watch
A round up of the latest press freedom news from Turkey.
Dario Fo’s “Second Nobel Prize”
Upon the news that his plays would not be performed at the State Theaters of Turkey, Dario Fo commented that he considered this censorship his “second Nobel Prize.” This is a fine example of satire, which has been a vital means of struggle throughout history, especially in times of oppression.
Too bad the world has recently lost such a great humanist, a satirist.
- Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
- Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
- Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
- Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
- Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg.
- His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom.
- His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.
Turkey is in a new turmoil. While the invasive, illegal strategy of “FETÖ” (Fetullah-led Terrorist Organization) to transform Turkey into an Islamo-fascist regime with a pro-American face was (and still is) a terrible path, the Erdoğan-led AK Party government is criticized for having misused the legitimate defensive measures. Here is the recent critique by PEN Turkey Centre against the dominant official trend:
“…the healthiest struggle against all putchist and terrorist organizations and movements is only possible in connection with democratic values. Countless writers, poets, journalists and academics who have obviously had no connection with terrorism have been detained, suspended or fired. This wrongdoing is a great injustice. Just because they contributed to this or that newspaper or appeared in a TV programme, or simply through belonging to a union, they should not have been harassed. The Ministry of Education has announced that eleven thousand teachers have been suspended. We believe that this act is endangering Turkey’s future.”
Since this announcement was made on September 12, the number of teachers who have been removed from work has gone up to nearly 30,000. Some of them in the southeast – largely Kurdish – are accused of supporting the PKK.
A freedom watch focusing on (but not limited to) literary critic Necmiye Alpay and novelist Aslı Erdoğan goes on in Istanbul – every Monday and Friday from 4 to 6 pm, in front of the Bakırköy Prison for Women in Istanbul.
Both Turkish authors have been imprisoned for more than a month now in relation to their positions on the advisory board of the Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. They have protested against the accusation that they supported terrorism, emphasizing that they are in prison simply because they defended the ideal of peace. In solidarity, PEN Turkey chose their books as “The Book of the Month” for September.
Pen International Vice President Eugene Schoulgin spoke about the unacceptable situation in Turkey. The gathering on September 9 included Halil Ibrahim Özcan (Vice President of PEN Turkey), Ms. Müge Gürsoy Sökmen (Publishers’ Association of Turkey), MP Akın Birdal (Human Rights Association), and Kurdish MP Hasip Dicle, who demanded freedom for the imprisoned writers and journalists. Levent Tüzel, the leader of the socialist EMEP (Labour Party), said: “Kurdish writers and journalists are under greater pressure. When they are in prison, none of us can be free.”
Here is Aslı Erdoğan’s handwritten message: “The prison is not a horrible place, but we are held here unlawfully. The worst torture I’ve ever experienced is not to be able to tell how long this cruelty will go on. It is a pity that I am not the last writer to have been arrested. But let us not lose our courage.”
PEN representatives from Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Wales also attended the Freedom Watch. The Writers’ Union of Turkey (TYS) and several media organizations are among the active supporters of the Freedom Watch.
The Hellenic Authors’ Society
As the leading writers’ association of the world, PEN International has naturally been actively concerned. In solidarity, the Hellenic Authors’ Society has joined our ranks:
“Greek writers join colleagues in Turkey and elsewhere in asking for the immediate release by Turkish authorities of prominent novelist Ahmet Altan and his brother who were arrested last week, of prize-winning writer Asli Erdogan who remains imprisoned since August, as well as for the release and fair treatment of all groundlessly accused authors and others.”
The 82nd PEN International Congress took place in Galicia, Spain, from September 26 to October 2. Understandably, writers from all over the world were concerned about Turkey. But more on the fruitful congress in my next column.