Turkish playwright presents play in Athens

“Turkey allows you to publish what you like and then takes you to court,» said Turkish cartoonist and writer Behic Ak at the Neos Cosmos Theater recently. He was unaware, at the time, that he was touching on something that has had reverberations here as well: the persecution of Greek author Mara Meimaridi’s «The Witches of Smyrna.» The book’s Turkish editor Abdullah Yilmaz is facing a three-year jail sentence. Behic Ak, in town for the staging of his play «Seven Richter,» talked about a changing Turkey. Friendly and cheerful, he answered all the journalists’ questions with the help of writer Petros Markaris, who has also translated his book into Greek. He talked about politics in Turkey, censorship and the author Orhan Pamuk. «Things in Turkey have changed over the past few years,» said Ak. «There is no preventive censorship and with the current legal framework it is difficult for anyone to be sentenced for their statements. What is happening with Pamuk is sad. Some of his statements were distorted and then republished in Turkey and there was an organized campaign against him. The problem at issue now, is under what legal code he is to be judged. Is it going to be the one that was in effect when he actually made the statements, under which he can be sentenced, or the current one?» Pamuk’s trial is part of the reaction of an aggressive right-wing section that exists in the national administration, in all parties, according to Ak. «That part of the population is small yet dynamic and reacts against anything progressive. The more marginalized it becomes, the more aggressive it also becomes. They throw eggs at writers, cause damage to exhibitions, violently interrupt lectures at universities.» According to the Turkish cartoonist, that small minority is trying to prevent Turkey from entering an international society. In the case of Pamuk, however, it got trapped. «Pamuk is very popular with the public and he is a powerful rival. It is very hard to go against him.» Other than the situation in Turkey, Ak spoke about himself, his work as a cartoonist and his play. «Seven Richter» is about the great earthquake that shook Izmir. The writer observes, records and handles the relationships of three people during a series of strong earthquakes. He discovers the deeper fears that are common to all nations, such as insecurity. «The more we take care of our security, the closer we get to prison,» he said and expressed his satisfaction with the staging of his play which he watched. «It is exactly what I wanted to see,» he said. Neos Cosmos Theater, 7 Antisthenous & Tharipou, tel 210.921.2900.