Turkey’s Silence of Snow
By: Ece Temelkuran
Published Friday, February 10, 2012
"Watch out! The snow from Siberia is coming tο Turkey," screams the anchorman on the screen, as if it's the end of the world. On each and every channel, prominent news reporters are explaining the strange weather and terrible traffic in the last week so frantically its as if we are all going to die tomorrow.
News articles on frivolous traffic accidents from all over the country, people complaining about the cold weather, and stories of paralyzed daily life are always followed by a happy ending: children throwing snowballs.
The news bulletins in Turkey are covered by snow lately. Considering the countless current absurdities of the state, only Siberian snow could have covered that mess. Here are some snap-shots from underneath the many layers of the white stuff.
Last week, American writer Paul Auster refused to visit Turkey because of the number of imprisoned journalists. His new book "Winter Journals" made its first appearance on the bookshelves in Turkey, but he wasn't in Istanbul for its launch. Apparently Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan was deeply touched by Auster’s absence, so much so that he made two separate statements about him.
Drawing attention to his Jewish origins and most probably trying to change the subject, he mentioned that Paul Auster visits Israel. The writer responded by bringing up the imprisoned publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and the number of arrested journalists. In his second response Prime Minister Erdoğan chose to mock the American by saying: "As if we need you! Who cares if you come or not! Would Turkey loose any grandeur?"
Such a great gesture of welcome for a writer in Turkey. Wise TV talking-heads rushed to comment on the issue with remarkable wisdom, claiming that ‘Paul Auster is a Jew so he must be a part of a plot.’ Most probably inspired by these remarks, the Vice President of the governing AKP party released a very serious statement: "Paul Auster might have links to Ergenekon".
Ergenekon is an alleged clandestine, ultra-nationalist organization with possible ties to members of the Turkish military and security forces. I see no need to underline the absurdity here. Nowadays the ongoing court cases against Ergenekon, in which over 500 people have been charged, are widely believed to have turned into a witch-hunt for opponents of the administration. After the statement about Auster's possible links to the organisation, Twitter was loaded with jokes about Auster becoming one of the imprisoned writers in Turkey.
Most probably inspired by these wise remarks, Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin had another stab at arrested journalists: "Since those arrested journalists want to come out of prison so badly, this means that there is a free country outside." Already famous for his bizarre rationalizations, Sahin’s claim that what makes a country democratic and free is being freer than a prison takes idiocy to a new level.
As the Auster fuss began to die down, Erdoğan’s 's latest statement dominated the media. He said: "We want to create a religious generation." The serious reaction from media didn't stop him there and he went on, saying "So what? Shall we let our kids end up huffing [taking inhalants]?" Huffing kids took to the media stage and said: "Only Allah was with us on the streets at night, not the religious people!"
This maddened the Prime Minister and he threatened the TV presenter who interviewed the kids, forcing him to write a long apology. This crazy dispute is still ongoing.
In tandem with this public farce, the head of the Intelligence Service Hakan Fidan was called for interrogation on suspicion of having links to Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK). The KCK is the alleged urban wing of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), and Fidan was alleged to have negotiated with the PKK as a special envoy of the prime minister.
It appears there is a very complicated and consequential power game within the state, but nobody could come up with an explanation for what really is going on. Most of the commentators imply that this is a war between the Fethullah Gülen Movement that carried AKP to government and the AKP government itself. But since most journalists are threatened by the Prime Minister when their reports are not to his liking, the media is quite hesitant to indulge in this serious stuff which is more dangerous than talking about huffing kids.
It is either a scripted bizarre comedy or an inconsistent thriller that has invaded the news in Turkey recently. No wonder that the anchors on screen prefer not to talk about anything but snow.
Especially when it is gathered on the ground, snow creates a particular kind of silence. The city buzzers cease and it can become so quiet that you can hear the particles hitting the ground.
Despite all the fake noise on TV screens, there is actually a silence of snow in Turkey. Since most of the dissident journalists are either in jail or ousted from the media, it seems the snow's silence will last longer than it should.
Ece Temelkuran is a political commentator, novelist and author of several books published in Turkish and English.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.