Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, said in an interview that there was immense political pressure in Turkey on the opposition as well as on writers, academics, journalists and artists.
Speaking to the T24 news website, Pamuk said many government critics were imprisoned. Adding that he was afraid to speak out against injustice and suffer the same fate as those in prison, Pamuk said he still tried to stand up for freedom and human rights as much as he could.
“Cruelty and sadism has become the norm [in Turkey],” he said. “It is normal to be scared. Look what they did to the singer Gülşen. Osman Kavala is in prison, and so are the leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party [HDP].”
Singer Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu, 46, who goes by the stage name “Gülşen,” was jailed in August on charges of “inciting hatred” over a quip about religious schools.
Top members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamic-rooted party then voiced moral outrage, turning her joke into another divisive issue roiling the polarized country 10 months before Turks go to the polls.
Businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala has been in prison since 2017 for allegedly financing the 2013 anti-government Gezi Park protests, and hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.
Pamuk added that he felt hopeful about the future and that the Erdogan-led Justice and Development Party (AKP) was slowly losing power.
“I think we are about to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “But of course, we don’t know how the change of government will take place.”