Why did the Canadian TV channel call me?
My phone rang last week late in an afternoon. A very polite female reporter, with an accented Turkish which revealed she has been living abroad for many years, asked for a television interview. The theme was “To listen to a Muslim female humorist how it is to make humor in a Muslim country.” I don’t think I need to say that this was part of the file prepared upon the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
First, I accepted it immediately. Then later, I started pondering, “What would I say?” If I say “Actually Turkey is very different; it is a democratic and secular country. We are extremely comfortable here,” it is one thing; if I say, “Yes, truly, we are also afraid and we need to take extra care about what we say and write. The climate has toughened,” it is another thing.
I could say, “Oh, no; freedoms in Turkey are skyrocketing; humorists, writers and journalists write whatever is in their hearts,” and would be lying or, on the contrary, I would sound as if I am badmouthing my country to strangers. Or maybe, my patriotic side would force me give a message of “everything is all right” and risk being beaten by a portion of citizens saying, “What? Sucking up to the government?” Or, maybe I will be criticizing authoritarianism and involving Islam in politics and get labeled by a portion of citizens as an enemy of the state and/or Islam.
If they ask me about Charlie Hebdo, then I am completely finished. The facts are that the prime minister participated in the march protesting the attack, while the president regards what the magazine did as an insult to Islam and has condemned it. In other words, even at the top of the state (except for condemning the murders) there is no clear view about freedom of expression. As this country’s Muslim but pro-democracy humorist, my view point is so complicated that just as much as CBC, I am also wondering what I am thinking.
What an immense contradiction. However, I had already agreed on an interview date. Now, this sounds extremely silly, but thank God I caught the flu and had to cancel it. I now understand that Turkey is a minefield in terms of intellectual views on politics, democracy, religion and freedoms.
Regardless of your view, expressing it is becoming more dangerous with each passing day.
I think this is the biggest problem concerning our near future, approaching us with marching steps.
İzmir trending upward
I am not from İzmir as it is thought. I am from Istanbul; the character I was playing was from İzmir. But I lovingly accept the honorary residency and identity from İzmir.
The civilization level of a city, of a neighborhood, of a country, I think, can be measured by how comfortable women are when walking on the streets at night. İzmir, in that sense, is like an oasis in a desert. It is a beautiful city; you live there beautifully. Friends and associates are rushing to buy houses and land in İzmir, making plans to move there.
They were saying, “İzmir is stagnant economically; it is not developing.” Well, from daily Hürriyet’s Gila Benmayor’s last column, we learned that this is not true anymore. In terms of creating employment, İzmir has become the second fastest growing metropolis in the world. The city has no debt to the central budget. It has been using its own resources or taking loans from international markets for its infrastructure projects. International Rating Agency Fitch has increased İzmir’s rating to AA+. Also, as icing on the cake, they are building a very well-founded opera building at İzmir.