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Pamuk Slams EU on Refugees

Orhan Pamuk (Photo courtesy of O. Pamuk)

Orhan Pamuk (Photo courtesy of O. Pamuk)

The most internationally renowned literary figure in Turkey, Nobel prizewinner Orhan Pamuk, has criticized Europe for abandoning its democratic values and respect for human rights in the recent deal on refugees between the European Union and Turkey.

Turkey and the EU have agreed that the latter will give the former a 3-billion-euro package in exchange for Turkey agreeing to host Syrian refugees fleeing from the civil war in their home country and prevent them from trying to enter Europe. The move has come at a time when Turkey’s government has been increasingly accused of resorting to authoritarian measures, especially in the country’s Kurdish-majority Southeast.

In an interview published by the Hürriyet daily on Saturday, Pamuk condemned the EU for turning a blind eye to the human rights violations committed by the Turkish government in order to secure the refugee deal and said that Europe had “lost all of its values” and is operating with the mindset “If they do what we want, then they can do whatever they want.”

“[The EU] will turn a blind eye to the human rights violations and jailing of journalists [in Turkey],” the novelist said.

Pamuk also said that “the biggest problem [in Turkey] is freedom of thought, and especially freedom for journalists to engage in political commentary.” He compared the current political situation in Turkey to that of the Soviet Union under Stalin, saying: “There has been a huge attack on political commentators. The government is working through the newspapers.”

When asked how he sees Turkey today, Pamuk said: “The situation looks bad, and I feel sad about it. If I were a deputy from the ruling party, I would feel uncomfortable about the pressure being placed on university professors.”

Pamuk, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature and teaches comparative literature and creative writing at Columbia University in the US, was referring to the recent government operations targeting academics who signed a petition denouncing the effects of the Turkish security forces’ operations in the Southeast on the local Kurdish population. Several academics who signed the petition have since been detained or fired from their positions. “It is unacceptable to target professors and … insult them and call them ‘traitors.’ And to put [the Cumhuriyet daily's Editor-in-Chief] Can Dündar in jail, what can I say?” the writer added.

Condemning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s desire to change Turkey’s parliamentary system of government to one featuring an executive presidency, Pamuk said: “We are already living in a presidential system. When the president says ‘I will hold Can Dündar to account,’ the judges do what he wants them to do. The civil service and the judiciary are too scared of the president, and no one is raising their voice in opposition.”

The Nobel laureate continued: “Just like everyone else who has similar views to me, I was disappointed by the result of the November [2015 general] election. However, is this the first time this has happened? There was [the case of former Prime Minister and President Süleyman] Demirel when I was a child. Am I the first leftist liberal and supporter of freedom to be disappointed? This is the story of our lives. But this time, it is just too much.”


(Source: Today’s Zaman)

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