Law and Art in Turmoil

by Tarık Günersel    /  January 31, 2014  / No comments

If he had his way, PM Erdoğan would be Head of Everything in Turkey.

Turkish artists writers musicians and lawyers in solidarity against oppression

Turkish artists writers musicians and lawyers in solidarity against oppression. Photo courtesy of Tarik Günersel.

Today there is hardly a democratic government in Turkey. I have taken to calling it “Erdocracy” as it carries the heavy hand of PM Erdoğan.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. 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?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. 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.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

Turkish literature, plastic arts, cinema, theater, opera, and ballet have all come under attack from PM Erdogan’s AK Party government.

For example: When a theater company wishes to perform a play for children, the police first demand to see the text. This demand is illegal, but they still do it. The police then submit the play to the person in charge of religious affairs! This is also illegal. But they do it. This is religious law in practice and it is clearly against the secularist principles of the constitution.

Because of this, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (Türkiye Barolar Birliği) hosted a multidisciplinary conference in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, on January 20, 2014. The title of the gathering was Law and Art Meet.

Prof. Metin Feyzioğlu, the president of the Turkish Bar Association, made a brilliant opening speech. More and more people hope that he will soon take a leading position in politics.

The conference was promising. It was followed by an impressive theatrical performance by Kemal Kocatürk, which was based on late satirist Can Yücel’s poems. Later, the evening was crowned by the 70-year-old composer, pianist, and singer Timur Selçuk’s concert, which included a few songs from Bertolt Brecht’s plays, in addition to some of his original songs.

Satire is fair…

…where there are no fair trials.

PM Erdoğan’s ideal organizational schema for the Turkish government seems to go like this:

President: Erdoğan
Prime Minister: Erdoğan
Each of the Cabinet Ministers: Erdoğan
Head of the Supreme Court: Erdoğan
General Editor of all newspapers, journals, and TV stations: Erdoğan.
Head of Every NGO: Erdoğan
Head of Everything: Erdoğan

Meanwhile, our currency has been losing ground. In just one month after the corruption crackdown, 1 US Dollar has gone up in value from 1.9 to 2.4 Turkish Liras.

The illusion that the government has been successful at reforming the economy is over.

The AK Party government has already been a nightmare from the view point of secularism, which is vital for democratization. Now the economic dimension has clearly been added to the list of issues.

Erdoğan keeps accusing everybody but himself. Whoever criticizes him or draws attention to political, social, judicial, cultural, and economic problems is a “traitor”–he claims. The newest “traitor” is Muharrem Yılmaz, the president of The Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), who has recently stated that foreign entrepreneurs will be reluctant to come to Turkey due to the scandalous problem of corruption and chaos in the judiciary. Yilmaz has protested the PM’s accusation.

True: The Islamist Gülen Movement

…seems to have taken control of the judiciary and the police force, leading to Erdoğan’s strong accusation that they have established a parallel state apparatus—which is unacceptable. But the PM’s accusation is part of his attempt to cover his own failure and misdeeds, including his despotism and unfair, illegal, and illegitimate accusations and threats.

Besides, Erdoğan’s AK Party seems to have been happily married to the Gülen Movement for more than a decade. If there is an illegal situation, then Erdoğan should admit his share of responsibility.

Law and order? What law and whose order? Ex-minister Erdoğan Bayraktar recently presented his resignation to the PM’s party, but the ruling party is reluctant to follow the procedure and set him free.

Furthermore, PM Erdoğan’s EU visit this January was not a victory, like his media would have us believe.

I hope the local elections on March 30 will be a turning point and that the 2015 General Elections will result in getting rid of the AK Party government.

It would be good, not only for Turkey, but for international peace as well. The mysterious truck caught on its way to Syria was not the first one, it appears.

About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

View all articles by Tarık Günersel

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