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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Erdogan freaks over an American author's refusal to visit

From NYT:

The publication in Turkey of a new work by Paul Auster — even before it is released in the United States — would seem to be a cause for celebration there. But instead it has provoked a war of words between Mr. Auster, who has used the occasion to call attention to human rights violations in that country, and the Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who mocked the author as “an ignorant man.”
The dust-up began when Mr. Auster gave an interview to the daily newspaper Hürriyet in Turkey, where his book “Winter Journal” has recently been published. Mr. Auster said he would not visit the country “because of imprisoned journalists and writers.”
“How many are jailed now?” Mr. Auster said in the interview. “Over 100?”
That elicited a strong if not especially concerned reply from Mr. Erdogan on Tuesday at a meeting of his AK Party in Ankara, Reuters reported.
If you come, so what?” Mr. Erdogan said. “If you don’t come, so what? Will Turkey lose prestige?
Well, until Erdogan went nuts over this issue, hardly anyone would have even known about this. In one fell swoop, Erdogan managed to make Auster a much more famous author and simultaneously made himself look like a petty child.

But he didn't end there:
Mr. Erdogan went on to criticize Mr. Auster for having previously visited Israel, saying: “”Supposedly Israel is a democratic, secular country, a country where freedom of expression and individual rights and freedoms are limitless. What an ignorant man you are. Aren’t these the ones that rained bombs down on Gaza? The ones that launched phosphorus bombs and used chemical weapons. How can you not see this?”
 Auster answered:
Whatever the Prime Minister might think about the state of Israel, the fact is that free speech exists there and no writers or journalists are in jail. According to the latest numbers gathered by International PEN, there are nearly one hundred writers imprisoned in Turkey, not to speak of independent publishers such as Ragip Zarakolu, whose case is being closely watched by PEN Centers around the world. All countries are flawed and beset by myriad problems, Mr. Prime Minister, including my United States, including your Turkey, and it is my firm conviction that in order to improve conditions in our countries, in every country, the freedom to speak and publish without censorship or the threat of imprisonment is a sacred right for all men and women.