After the failed coup, Burhan Sönmez says there is “no stability in politics [or] social life” in Turkey. Does that mean there’s no hope for the future? Not so fast.

“Both parties are bad. One of them is the army, the other side is the government… The collision of these two forces will not bring democracy to Turkey.”



An excerpt from Burhan Sönmez‘s interview with Deutsche Welle immediately following the attempted coup in Turkey:

Were you surprised by the attempted coup in Turkey?

I was very surprised and I believe the majority of society was surprised with this coup attempt, because the army and the government had been getting along very well with each other on almost every issue. No one expected this.

So how do you explain it suddenly happening then?

That’s the nature of Turkey. There is no stability in politics and in social life, so you can expect anything to happen at any time in society with the army and the government. This unexpected occurrence is just a result of it.

How are you reacting to the aftermath of the events?

What’s worrying is that two evil forces collided with each other last Friday. By evil force, I mean that both parties are bad. One of them is the army, the coup plotters, and the other side is the government, which is not good at applying democratic politics either. The collision of these two forces will not bring democracy to Turkey—so we are very worried.

Now, we have saved the parliamentary system, but that doesn’t mean we have saved the democratic system, because Erdogan is using this to escalate his politics, his personal ambition and his pro-Islam regime. That is worrying for us.

. . .

You have experienced police violence firsthand. Now, just after the coup, more attention is given to the way Erdogan is dealing with his opponents, but the situation has been difficult for many years already. Was there a particular moment when you realized that things were becoming more threatening for freedom of expression in the country?

It is a slow-motion change. For years and years, social media platforms like Twitter have been blocked every now and then. Yesterday, 10 news websites were blocked. They were not even affiliated with Fethullah Gülen. They were left-wing or social democratic news sites. This censorship is not something that will stop at a certain point. It will carry on for years and years. But we will carry on in favor of freedom of speech and democracy.

Your 2015 novel Istanbul Istanbul is about prisoners who try to find relief from the pain of torture through storytelling. Can storytelling inspire us for the future of Turkey?

In that novel, you can see that people are in pain, but they keep their faith in the future, they still have their dreams.

People like me, we’ve believed in this country for years and years. If you ask me if I’ve had a good year in this country, I will tell you, no. Every year has been worse than the previous one. But that means that our hopes are getting bigger than the previous year—otherwise you cannot survive here.

I will tell you something very unrealistic: I am very hopeful for the future of my country, otherwise I would have left. I’m still here; people like me are still standing here. We will carry on our calls for freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and also peace. We need these more than ever before. 1


Library Journal also recently reviewed Sönmez’s novel, calling it “A real find; highly recommended”:

Four men inhabit a dank cell in Istanbul: the Doctor; the student Demirtay; troublesome Kamo the Barber; and Uncle Küheylan, an older man from the mountains who has always dreamed deliriously of coming to Istanbul. As they wait tensely for guards to drag out one of them for the next round of torture, they tell one another stories they already know, stories that take them beyond their cell walls to the larger world. From the wily nun who escapes a rapist to hunters trying to undo fate decreed by a fairy, these tales are engrossingly rendered, and they eventually lead to Istanbul itself, fighting to defend its beauty. An award-winning Turkish author and former lawyer, Sönmez spent five years in the UK being treated for injuries sustained in an assault by the Turkish police, and he captures the chill of anticipating torture with quiet authority. But his book is ultimately and persuasively about what imagination can do. 2


istanbul istanbul cover

remembering akbar cover

1 DW Akademie, published 18 July 2016
2 Library Journal, published 8 June 2016

Verified by MonsterInsights