The heirs of Nazim Hikmet

Dictators around the world have never tolerated criticism from people imbued with the ideals of democracy and human rights. Turkey has not been immune, particularly after the coups of 1971 and 1980. The famous Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet experienced one of his most creative periods while serving time in prison. In the 1990s, writer Yassar Kemal paid dearly for defending the rights of the Kurdish people. Yet who could imagine that today this phantom would raise its ugly head once again to persecute contemporary intellectuals with «insulting the Turkish national identity»? The writer Orhan Pamuk, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and Abdullah Yildiz, who published Mara Meimaridi’s novel «The Witches of Smyrna» among several others, have all come under fire. It is not Islamic fundamentalists who would like to turn the country eastward, but the old guard afraid of losing privileges if Turkey’s negotiations with the European Union go well. That is why they are looking for scandals that could be exploited by Europeans opposed to Turkey’s accession. Much will depend on the Turkish prime minister. Austria, which assumes the EU presidency on January 1, did what it could last September to prevent the opening of accession talks with Turkey. Meanwhile, the peoples of Europe are viewing Turkey’s membership with increasing disfavor.