Maureen Freely: The faceless, nameless defenders of 'Turkishness'

This was an orchestrated attempt to insult Pamuk's supporters

Share

If I had to guess, I'd say that there were 200 of us milling outside the courtroom where Orhan Pamuk was to have been tried this past Friday morning. The Turkish intelligentsia was there in force - at least, that part of the intelligentsia that campaigns for human rights. There were more than a dozen European parliamentarians, and journalists from all over the world. So at first we just ignored the woman spouting fascist venom at the top of the stairs. But when the defendant arrived and she rapped him on the head with a rolled-up plastic folder, we could not help but wonder. Who'd let her in?

By now the 20-odd riot police were herding us towards the courtroom. When the room filled to the brim and the door slammed shut, the crowd kept moving forward. I almost got crushed. Meanwhile, at the other end of the corridor, a group of nationalist fascist agitators had formed a ring around a target "traitor" while the riot police watched blankly. After a nod from a man, said by some to be a plainclothes policeman, they quietened down, only to move on to another target, and then another.

Why were they allowed to stay among us? What to make of the nationalist lawyers whose foaming representations against Orhan Pamuk took up most of the 50-minute hearing? After asking the judge to clear the room of meddling Europeans, one of them socked Denis McShane in the eye. McShane and several other EU parliamentarians were assaulted again later as they left the building. Then came the eggs and the pelting of stones, which the Turkish press politely described as having been thrown "from a distance".

Though the right-wing tabloids rejoiced that the "fearful", "white-faced" author and his meddling European friends got their comeuppance, the more responsible newspapers expressed shame and dismay at the mayhem, rightly saying that it had damaged Turkey's image abroad, perhaps irreparably. A handful of columnists dared to ask why security had failed so dismally, but no one was venturing theories. There was no need: they'd got the message.

I did, too, so let me pass it on. This was not a security failure, nor was it a case of a government or a judicial system "shooting itself in the foot": this was a carefully orchestrated attempt to insult and intimidate Pamuk's supporters, and most especially the EU parliamentarians who had come to observe his trial. It is no accident that it happened in full view of the world media, just as it is no accident that Turkey comes out of it looking like an old-style authoritarian regime. For that is exactly what it is, and that is how a certain very powerful élite would like it to remain.

The army has been the dominant force in the Turkish Republic for as long as there has been a republic. It sees itself as the guardian of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's founding vision; if it feels a government is straying from the Kemalist path, it feels duty bound to step in. In 1960, it did not just remove the then prime minister from office; it had him and two of his ministers hanged. Then it drafted a new constitution that greatly increased the military's role in politics. Since then it has stepped in twice - in 1971 and in 1980. Turkey's current constitution is the one the generals drafted in the early Eighties before stepping back out again. Both the penal code that expired earlier this year and the supposedly EU-friendly code that has replaced it put serious curbs on freedom of expression.

One of the main conditions of EU entry is that Turkey must cease to be a "tutelary" or "guided" democracy. This means rolling back the army's role in politics. If Turkey joins Europe, the military stands to be the biggest loser. For certain patriotic and well-placed militarists, EU entry is not just a threat to their power base but an out-and-out betrayal of Kemalism as they understand it.

We are not to know if these faceless, nameless parties are in touch with the prosecutors who have now charged more than 50 writers, editors, and academics for publicly insulting the judiciary, the army, or Turkishness itself. But there are many new and dark rumours about the "deep state", the network of security forces, intelligence operatives and fascist paramilitaries that many view to be the driving force of Turkish politics. After a recent bungled bombing of a Kurdish bookstore in a city in the south-east, there are even a few shreds of proof.

Europe is not the Turkish army's sole preoccupation. There is the deepening crisis in Cyprus, the prospect of an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq, and the strain in its relations with its longtime bankroller, the US. Hemmed in on all sides by troublesome and meddling foreigners, it may be losing its patience.

The writer is Orhan Pamuk's English translator

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home