Elif Shafak HARDtalk


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS


Elif Shafak

Stephen Sackur speaks to Turkish writer Elif Shafak, who lives much of her life in London. Does the West get anywhere close to understanding Turkey's complex culture and politics?


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Elif Shafak. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Now on BBC News, it is time for HARDtalk.

0:00:000:00:05

Welcome to HARDtalk. I'm Stephen Sackur.

0:00:080:00:12

A dozen years ago, Europeans looked to Turkey and thought they saw

0:00:120:00:15

a country becoming more like them, embracing Western values

0:00:150:00:18

and on a long-term track to EU membership.

0:00:180:00:20

But today, well, Europe sees authoritarianism,

0:00:200:00:21

conservatism, and repression embodied in the all-powerful figure

0:00:220:00:24

of President Erdogan.

0:00:240:00:31

My guest is Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist and writer

0:00:310:00:33

who lives much of her life in London.

0:00:340:00:40

Does the West get anywhere close to understanding Turkey's complex

0:00:400:00:42

culture and politics?

0:00:420:00:48

Elif Shafak, welcome to HARDtalk. Thank you.

0:01:160:01:18

When you write of Turkey today, I wonder what emotions draw you?

0:01:180:01:21

Would it be anger or sadness or incomprehension?

0:01:210:01:25

I think there is a lot of sadness. I feel sad.

0:01:260:01:30

I feel worried.

0:01:300:01:34

So much is changing in Turkey and so fast.

0:01:340:01:37

I think speed is important with many things that are happening,

0:01:380:01:41

with a bewildering speed which almost prevents time to stop

0:01:410:01:45

and analyse because something else happens next week and so it goes

0:01:450:01:51

on and on.

0:01:510:01:53

I am very sad when I look at the direction that my motherland

0:01:530:01:57

has taken, and I think we have become a very unhappy nation,

0:01:570:02:00

and unhappy people.

0:02:000:02:02

Do you feel that you and Turkey have a greater distance

0:02:020:02:05

between you than ever before?

0:02:050:02:10

Because I referred to the fact that you live most of your

0:02:100:02:14

life in London.

0:02:140:02:15

Even from being a young girl, you were very used to travelling

0:02:150:02:18

around the world, but doesn't the distance from your motherland

0:02:180:02:21

feel much greater today?

0:02:210:02:22

I wouldn't generalise like that because, as you know,

0:02:220:02:24

Turkey is a very polarised, bitterly divided, bitterly

0:02:240:02:26

politicised country.

0:02:260:02:29

So there is also a civil society in Turkey that perhaps we do not

0:02:290:02:33

hear much about.

0:02:330:02:39

But within that civil society, there are so many progressive

0:02:390:02:42

people, open minded Democrats who do know that their country deserves

0:02:420:02:44

much better than this.

0:02:440:02:51

Minorities, women, students, youth, so when I look at the people,

0:02:510:02:54

I feel very connected.

0:02:540:02:55

When I look at Turkey's politics and politicians,

0:02:550:02:58

then yes, the distance is enormous.

0:02:580:02:59

I want to dig inside the civil society that you see in Turkey today

0:02:590:03:03

in a minute, but I want to begin by focusing on perspectives

0:03:030:03:06

between Europe and Turkey today and the degree to which there is,

0:03:060:03:09

frankly, a complete lack of understanding.

0:03:090:03:11

Do you think there is mutual misunderstanding, both ways?

0:03:110:03:14

The journey of Turkey's EU membership I think has been

0:03:140:03:16

so important and there are several turning points,

0:03:160:03:18

misunderstandings, and mistakes.

0:03:180:03:19

Turkey no doubt is a very complicated country,

0:03:190:03:23

very multilayered.

0:03:230:03:29

Sometimes European observers say they find it difficult to understand

0:03:290:03:32

Turkey.

0:03:320:03:37

Many Turks feel the same way about their own country.

0:03:370:03:40

But that said, I think we need to remember there was a time when it

0:03:400:03:48

seemed almost possible that Turkey was going to become a member

0:03:480:03:51

of the EU, around 2005, 2006.

0:03:510:03:54

Almost a historical moment, and that moment is lost now.

0:03:540:03:57

I remember that moment very well because actually,

0:03:570:03:59

as it happens, I was based in Brussels for the BBC,

0:03:590:04:02

following every move in the Turkey-EU relationship,

0:04:020:04:04

as they sought to get to a point where membership negotiations

0:04:040:04:08

would become real and meaningful, but here we are, as you say,

0:04:080:04:15

a dozen years later and there is no prospect at all.

0:04:150:04:19

In fact, I just want to read to you something that

0:04:190:04:22

President Erdogan said just a few weeks ago.

0:04:220:04:24

He said, "In Europe, things have become very serious

0:04:240:04:27

in terms of the extent of Islamophobia.

0:04:270:04:29

The EU is now closing its doors on Turkey and Turkey doesn't

0:04:290:04:32

close its doors on anyone."

0:04:320:04:35

But that's a narrative that suggests the currently pretty poisonous

0:04:350:04:38

relationship between Europe and Turkey is the fault of Europe

0:04:380:04:41

because Europe can't handle the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country.

0:04:410:04:47

We need to remember how the relationship has collapsed,

0:04:470:04:50

going back ten years.

0:04:500:04:53

I did criticise the Turkish Government for failing

0:04:530:04:55

to fulfil EU criteria.

0:04:550:04:57

We needed those reforms.

0:04:570:04:59

Primarily in order to improve our immature and wobbly democracy.

0:04:590:05:01

It was going to be good for Turkey's future and for Turkey's civil

0:05:010:05:08

society as well, but I also criticised some of the politicians,

0:05:080:05:11

particularly to make it more clear, populist politicians,

0:05:110:05:13

within Europe, continental Europe, especially in France at the time

0:05:130:05:16

of Sarkozy, who used Turkey at the time as the fear card

0:05:160:05:19

in their own electoral campaigns.

0:05:190:05:24

What they did was quite short-sighted and what we need

0:05:240:05:26

to understand is ever since the EU became more distanced from Turkey,

0:05:260:05:33

this directly worked into the hands of isolationists in Turkey,

0:05:330:05:36

and who are those?

0:05:360:05:41

They are the nationalists, they are the Islamists,

0:05:420:05:44

and they are the ones who want a more authoritarian regime.

0:05:440:05:50

So Turkey became more and more enclosed.

0:05:500:05:52

It is very sad that years and years ago, public opinion,

0:05:520:05:55

public support for EU membership in Turkey was incredibly high.

0:05:550:05:57

But not now?

0:05:570:05:59

Not now.

0:05:590:06:00

I mean, the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr Yildirim, just told our programme

0:06:000:06:03

a couple of weeks ago, he said if there were a vote right

0:06:030:06:07

now in Turkey, he has no doubt that the vote would be

0:06:070:06:10

against membership of the European Union,

0:06:100:06:12

and I'll come back to this point about you and your country.

0:06:120:06:15

I mean, you do live in London.

0:06:150:06:17

You are westernised, if that phrase means

0:06:170:06:19

anything at all.

0:06:190:06:22

Of course, Turkey has always been seen as this country pulled

0:06:220:06:25

and pushed between East and West, and the western element

0:06:250:06:27

within Turkey does appear to have lost out.

0:06:270:06:30

Well, the Government officials are saying that the public opinion

0:06:300:06:32

right now is quite negative.

0:06:320:06:36

Yes, but that's also not unrelated to the fact that constantly

0:06:360:06:39

the government itself is producing this anti-Western rhetoric

0:06:390:06:41

and they're talking about joining the Shanghai pact, walking

0:06:410:06:44

in the opposite direction with Kurdistan, China and Russia,

0:06:440:06:46

and surely that is the right place to be for a country with such a poor

0:06:460:06:55

record of human rights violations, human rights and freedom of speech.

0:06:550:06:57

I personally never want to see Turkey walking in that direction.

0:06:580:07:01

I want Turkey sharing the same values that matters

0:07:010:07:03

so much in Europe.

0:07:030:07:12

We have such a long history together.

0:07:120:07:14

I am not only talking about financial, economic ties,

0:07:140:07:17

not only political ties, but also cultural ties that go

0:07:170:07:26

all the way back to the Ottoman Empire.

0:07:260:07:28

With regards to identity, it is a big issue in Turkey

0:07:280:07:31

and I wish we could see being in the middle of East and West

0:07:310:07:35

as a source of richness instead of as something to get rid of.

0:07:350:07:39

I wish we could see that diversity is a treasure in itself.

0:07:390:07:42

I have always believed in multiple belongings.

0:07:420:07:44

Yes, I am an Istanbulite, but I am also a Londoner.

0:07:440:07:48

There are so many elements in my soul, from the Middle East,

0:07:480:07:51

I am attached to the Asian, the Mediterranean, the Balkans.

0:07:510:07:54

I am a European by choice and I like to believe that I am

0:07:540:07:57

a world citizen.

0:07:570:08:03

Why not have multiple belongings?

0:08:030:08:04

We do not have to be narrowed down to a singular,

0:08:040:08:07

monolithic identity politics.

0:08:070:08:08

Well, it is fascinating you put it that way,

0:08:080:08:11

and you put me in mind of the recent novel you wrote which was published

0:08:110:08:15

last year, Three Daughters of Eve, which is about a Turkish woman,

0:08:150:08:18

Peri, who is living in Istanbul but still struggling to quite come

0:08:180:08:21

to terms with her complicated past which involved being educated

0:08:210:08:24

in the West, questions about her identity, relationship

0:08:240:08:26

to living in a Muslim country, albeit in Istanbul,

0:08:260:08:42

which is obviously in many ways the most liberal city in Turkey.

0:08:420:08:45

It strikes me that you are Peri, in a way.

0:08:450:08:48

There are a lot of issues that she is wrestling

0:08:480:08:51

with and uncertainties and other easiness that she has that you have.

0:08:510:08:54

In my recent novel, there are three women

0:08:540:08:56

characters, female characters.

0:08:560:08:57

All of them come from Muslim backgrounds but there

0:08:570:08:59

are relationships with identity, religion is completely different.

0:09:000:09:02

So we have Shirin, who is an Iranian British student,

0:09:020:09:04

and she is the child of exiled parents.

0:09:050:09:06

She is an atheist.

0:09:070:09:10

She no longer has any faith at all.

0:09:100:09:12

Absolutely.

0:09:120:09:13

She is an atheist and she's very critical of all religions,

0:09:130:09:16

but in particular of Islam, because of the mistreatment

0:09:160:09:18

of women.

0:09:180:09:20

We have Mona, who is Egyptian American, who wears

0:09:200:09:23

a headscarf and is a practising Muslim.

0:09:230:09:25

Who has a belief.

0:09:250:09:28

But I am really interested in Peri.

0:09:280:09:30

Because it seems to me, if I may, that when you talk

0:09:300:09:33

about your Istanbul and your belief that in Turkey, yes,

0:09:330:09:36

there can be this third way, this wonderful synthesis of East

0:09:360:09:39

and West, you speak obviously for yourself and for a tranche

0:09:390:09:42

of Turkish frankly progressive liberal and perhaps not very

0:09:420:09:44

representative opinion, perhaps embodied by fictional

0:09:440:09:46

characters like Peri as well, but do you really feel that you tap

0:09:460:09:49

into the feelings of many ordinary Turks today?

0:09:500:09:55

I think it goes beyond Turkey, but Turkey is an interesting

0:09:550:09:58

platform in that regard because of our many,

0:09:580:10:00

many confusions.

0:10:010:10:03

We are a very confused nation about our identity,

0:10:030:10:06

where we stand.

0:10:060:10:08

So it is not a coincidence that I brought these girls together.

0:10:080:10:11

They jokingly call themselves the sinner, the believer,

0:10:110:10:13

and the confused.

0:10:130:10:22

And you are right.

0:10:220:10:23

I particularly wanted to follow the confused and write

0:10:230:10:26

about the confusions of our times.

0:10:260:10:28

I'm intrigued by this debate on faith.

0:10:280:10:30

Is there another path?

0:10:300:10:33

Is there another way of talking about these issues,

0:10:330:10:35

a more secularist approach?

0:10:350:10:44

A nonreligious way of talking about faith, is that possible?

0:10:440:10:46

Maybe to put it more bluntly, I'm intrigued by faith but I do know

0:10:460:10:50

that faith without doubt is a dogma and dogmas

0:10:500:10:53

are very, very dangerous.

0:10:530:10:53

But I guess my point is what you have just said

0:10:540:10:57

is fascinating and it is nuanced, and is there any room for nuance

0:10:570:11:00

in Turkey today?

0:11:000:11:08

Because look at the way Mr Erdogan handles politics.

0:11:080:11:10

He referred to himself once, rather famously, as a black Turk.

0:11:100:11:13

The idea that there is now this popularisation in Turkey

0:11:130:11:16

between the white Turks, who he would regard as the elite,

0:11:160:11:19

unrepresentative perhaps, associations with the military

0:11:190:11:20

and the state in the past, and then what he identifies

0:11:210:11:23

as the black Turks, who as the masses, the people

0:11:230:11:26

who have faith, have religion, and frankly follow him.

0:11:260:11:29

That is not a nuanced view of where Turkey is today

0:11:290:11:32

but it is Erdogan's view and Erdogan is by so far the dominant player

0:11:320:11:36

and character in Turkey's story today.

0:11:360:11:46

Populism in general thrives upon dualities and populist

0:11:460:11:48

demagogues like the distinction between us versus them.

0:11:480:11:50

They're creating us versus them.

0:11:500:11:51

They benefit from that.

0:11:510:11:52

I think it is the artist's, it is the writer's job to introduce

0:11:520:12:00

more nuance and hopefully to bring forth a more nuanced way of looking

0:12:000:12:04

at things, but you are definitely right.

0:12:040:12:06

Given the state of things in Turkey today, we have to bear in mind that

0:12:060:12:10

Turkey has become the world's biggest jailer of journalists.

0:12:100:12:12

Journalism is the most difficult profession in Turkey today.

0:12:120:12:15

And every poet, every writer, every journalist, every academic

0:12:150:12:17

in Turkey knows that because of a poem,

0:12:170:12:19

because of an article, a novel, or even a tweet,

0:12:190:12:22

we can get into trouble so easily.

0:12:220:12:35

We can be sued.

0:12:350:12:36

We can be almost lynched in social media.

0:12:360:12:38

We can be put on trial, may be detained or exiled or imprisoned.

0:12:380:12:41

So what I am trying to say is when we write, we have this

0:12:410:12:45

knowledge in the back of our minds.

0:12:450:12:47

As a result, there is a lot of self-censorship,

0:12:470:12:49

which is a subject we find very difficult to talk

0:12:500:12:52

about because it is embarrassing.

0:12:520:12:54

Do you self censor?

0:12:540:12:55

But I think we need to face it.

0:12:550:12:57

Well, I am asking you face it.

0:12:570:12:59

Absolutely, and I am facing it.

0:12:590:13:00

I think when I write fiction I never self censor not because of any other

0:13:000:13:04

thing but because the art of storytelling guides me

0:13:040:13:07

and when I am inside a novel I stay inside the novel for weeks

0:13:070:13:11

and months, sometimes over a year.

0:13:110:13:12

And those characters become my reality.

0:13:120:13:14

And I forget the so-called real world.

0:13:140:13:16

Only when I hand it to my editor I become very anxious and by then

0:13:160:13:20

it is too late.

0:13:200:13:26

And how can you say that, Elif Shafak, when you more than most

0:13:260:13:29

know the repercussions of writing things that cross a line.

0:13:290:13:32

In 2006, the Bastard of Istanbul was your novel which landed

0:13:320:13:35

you in court.

0:13:350:13:37

For a while it seemed you were going to be convicted

0:13:370:13:40

of crimes under Article 301, which essentially was accusing

0:13:400:13:42

you of insulting Turkishness because of the way you wrote

0:13:420:13:45

about the mass killing of Armenians, what many call

0:13:450:13:47

the Armenian genocide?

0:13:470:13:52

Yes, in my novel the Bastard of Istanbul, I wrote the story

0:13:520:13:59

of an Armenian American family and a Turkish family

0:13:590:14:01

and it is a book that uses the word genocide for what happened in 1915

0:14:010:14:05

and for that I was accused of insulting Turkishness under

0:14:050:14:08

article 301, even though nobody knows what that exactly means.

0:14:080:14:11

What is insulting Turkishness?

0:14:110:14:16

It is open to misinterpretation.

0:14:160:14:21

And it was a very unsettling, unnerving time for me.

0:14:210:14:24

I had to live with a bodyguard for a year and a half and the trial

0:14:240:14:28

itself was quite negative.

0:14:280:14:34

But that's a memory you can't get rid of.

0:14:340:14:37

Saying so frankly that you were unsettled, you were

0:14:370:14:40

unnerved, lived for a year and a half with a bodyguard, when you

0:14:400:14:43

write your books today, and I know you have just embarked on another

0:14:430:14:47

novel, surely you are carrying that in your consciousness and it does

0:14:470:14:50

impact the way you write, does it not?

0:14:500:14:54

I think it took me a long time to heal that psychological

0:14:540:14:57

turbulence in my soul.

0:14:570:14:58

Of course, I was affected by that.

0:14:580:15:00

But at the same time, when the book came out in

0:15:000:15:03

Turkey, I was experiencing the trial and so forth,

0:15:030:15:05

from the readers the

0:15:050:15:06

feedback, the warmth, was amazing.

0:15:070:15:08

Particularly women readers.

0:15:080:15:09

Women readers of all backgrounds, Turkish,

0:15:090:15:10

Kurdish, Jewish, Armenian, their words, it was just amazing.

0:15:100:15:21

It showed me one thing.

0:15:210:15:24

That words matter in Turkey.

0:15:240:15:26

Stories matter.

0:15:260:15:27

And your connection as a writer with readers is very important.

0:15:270:15:30

That is why I always say being a Turkish

0:15:300:15:33

writer is just like being kissed on the one cheek by readers

0:15:330:15:36

and being slapped on the other cheek by the

0:15:360:15:38

system exactly at the same time.

0:15:380:15:41

But let me ask you this.

0:15:410:15:43

If you want to make a difference in Turkey today,

0:15:430:15:45

an you identify with the writers, the journalists, the

0:15:450:15:48

progressives, the academics, let's not forget thousands of those have

0:15:480:15:50

lost their jos and many been arrested since

0:15:500:15:52

the most recent round of

0:15:520:15:54

measures taken in the state of emergency.

0:15:540:16:01

If you self identify with this group in Turkey, how do you

0:16:010:16:05

make that voice, the let's call it progressive, liberal voice,

0:16:050:16:07

resonate and count across the country, because there's no

0:16:070:16:10

doubt the AKP know how to organise and

0:16:100:16:12

deliver politically, and one could also say

0:16:120:16:14

that the military and everything that goes with the

0:16:140:16:16

Turkish military, they know how to organise.

0:16:160:16:18

But it seems to me that the liberals and progressives,

0:16:180:16:21

though they may be quite substantial number, they don't really organise

0:16:210:16:24

or have a coherent vision for the country.

0:16:240:16:26

Yes, but first of all I am so glad you mentioned academics in

0:16:260:16:30

addition to journalists, writers, who are unfortunately...

0:16:300:16:31

Who have lost their freedoms today.

0:16:310:16:33

But the position of the academics is also so

0:16:330:16:36

important.

0:16:360:16:36

Thousands of them have been sacked.

0:16:360:16:37

We need to understand that when you are dismissed as an

0:16:370:16:40

academic and Turkey, your prospects of finding another

0:16:400:16:43

job at another university is almost nil.

0:16:430:16:45

These people are almost left without money, without any job, and

0:16:450:16:47

completely unlawfully exact.

0:16:470:17:11

So to be frank about it, the progressives,

0:17:110:17:13

the liberals, they are too weak.

0:17:130:17:15

They are not united.

0:17:150:17:16

They don't have a coherent platform or vision and

0:17:160:17:18

therefore, for all of the individual efforts of people such as yourself

0:17:180:17:22

and many others, the voice doesn't resonate.

0:17:220:17:25

Yes, but there are so many important voices in Turkey today.

0:17:250:17:29

As we are speaking, I am very sad to say,

0:17:290:17:31

two academics are on hunger strike and it has been over 60 days.

0:17:310:17:35

They have now passed a very critical threshold,

0:17:350:17:37

which is life-threatening medical for them.

0:17:370:17:38

There are people trying to dissent, criticise,

0:17:390:17:40

express their sorrow or position sometimes at the expense of their

0:17:400:17:43

lives.

0:17:440:17:44

You are right.

0:17:440:17:45

The opposition in Turkey, the other half, is quite

0:17:450:17:47

fragmented, disorganised, but let us not also

0:17:470:17:55

forget what happened in

0:17:550:17:56

this referendum.

0:17:560:17:56

I would like to take a closer look at it.

0:17:560:17:59

In the run-up to the referendum, we have

0:17:590:18:01

seen a very unfair campaign.

0:18:010:18:03

Almost all of the state's resources, almost

0:18:030:18:05

all of the media outlets were is devoted to one side of the

0:18:050:18:08

referendum, which is the yes vote, pro Erdogan.

0:18:080:18:16

Essentially to change the constitution to the

0:18:160:18:18

presidency, not necessarily Mr Erdogan, because he won't be there

0:18:180:18:21

forever, but to give the presidency much more power.

0:18:210:18:23

Yes, but it was symbolised in him, certainly.

0:18:230:18:25

What I am trying to say is the other side of the campaign, the no voice,

0:18:250:18:30

was almost given no free space, and just the opposite.

0:18:300:18:32

People who dared to say no were either targeted,

0:18:320:18:35

slandered, stigmatised, sometimes physically

0:18:350:18:36

or verbally assaulted or

0:18:360:18:37

lost their jobs.

0:18:370:18:45

So within this climate of intimidation, we went to

0:18:450:18:48

this referendum.

0:18:480:18:48

But let's put all of this on the side and look at the

0:18:480:18:52

picture we have in hand.

0:18:520:18:53

It is remarkable that despite the intimidation half

0:18:530:18:55

of the Turkish society still said no.

0:18:550:18:57

And that says something about the strength...

0:18:570:18:59

Well, just under half.

0:18:590:19:04

The nature of democracy is that those who get the

0:19:040:19:07

most votes tend to win and obviously in this case it was close but

0:19:070:19:11

Erdogan's side won that argument.

0:19:110:19:12

It seems to me you have got to address the

0:19:120:19:15

most basic fact of all which is that since 2003, Mr Erdogan and his

0:19:150:19:19

colleagues in the AKP have time and again

0:19:190:19:21

proven themselves to be the

0:19:210:19:22

most popular force in Turkish politics.

0:19:220:19:24

You may talk about his authoritarianism, his oppressive

0:19:240:19:26

approach to free speech in the media, but he wins elections,

0:19:260:19:29

repeatedly, and if you travel perhaps to rural Antolia, you

0:19:290:19:32

will see just how popular the man is.

0:19:320:19:37

The distinction between the countryside and urban areas is not

0:19:370:19:40

only happening in Turkey.

0:19:400:19:45

Across Europe we have seen similar patterns.

0:19:450:19:47

Even in Austria, we have seen more far right being supported

0:19:470:19:50

across the countryside and in urban areas more liberal voices voting

0:19:500:19:56

pro-liberal voices.

0:19:560:19:56

So it is a pattern that we see over and over

0:19:560:19:59

again.

0:19:590:20:00

There is a pattern.

0:20:000:20:05

You could argue that the sorts of things we

0:20:050:20:07

see in Turkey today could be linked to the political realities of Russia

0:20:080:20:11

today, where Putin is in the ascendant.

0:20:110:20:14

You could perhaps look at a country like Egypt, where 2011

0:20:140:20:17

brought the Arab Spring and so many pro-democracy voices onto the

0:20:170:20:20

streets in Cairo, but where is Egypt today?

0:20:200:20:22

Those liberal, secular, pro-democracy voices are nowhere.

0:20:220:20:24

But here is what I think.

0:20:240:20:27

Being popular or getting the most of the

0:20:270:20:29

votes, let's say, by numbers, isn't enough to gain legitimacy.

0:20:290:20:32

It is not enough to make a system a democracy.

0:20:320:20:34

And that is the biggest mistake the AKP elite

0:20:340:20:37

have been making over and

0:20:370:20:38

over throughout the years.

0:20:380:20:39

In short, what they are thinking is if we have

0:20:390:20:42

the ballot box, this is democracy, is what they are saying, and I am

0:20:420:20:46

saying no because the ballot box is only one

0:20:460:20:48

of the requirements for a

0:20:480:20:50

proper democracy.

0:20:500:20:50

In addition to the ballot box, you need other things.

0:20:500:20:53

You need rule of law, separation of powers,

0:20:530:20:55

checks and balances, definitely a free media, definitely

0:20:550:20:57

an independent academia, you need women's rights,

0:20:570:20:59

you need LGBT rights.

0:20:590:21:00

Together with all these

0:21:090:21:10

components, you can have a proper, pluralistic, functioning democracy.

0:21:100:21:18

Now, if you don't have any of those other

0:21:180:21:21

components and only have the

0:21:210:21:22

ballot box, that system cannot be called a democracy.

0:21:220:21:27

It can only be a majoritarianism at best.

0:21:270:21:29

At worst, it will go towards authoritarianism.

0:21:290:21:31

What we have lost in Turkey is the culture of code systems.

0:21:310:21:34

What we have lost is the understanding that

0:21:340:21:36

we can have diversity and unity at the same time.

0:21:360:21:39

We can have shared values.

0:21:390:21:43

Rather than that, it has always been half of the society

0:21:430:21:46

pitted against the other half.

0:21:460:21:48

And this is the rhetoric that Mr Erdogan

0:21:480:21:50

used again and again.

0:21:500:21:51

And that kind of dualism is not healthy for any

0:21:510:21:54

society.

0:21:540:21:54

And, yes, I think there is a lot of depression in Turkey at the

0:21:540:21:58

moment.

0:21:580:22:01

Would you like to escape from that depression by ceasing to

0:22:010:22:04

write about Turkey and writing about other things?

0:22:040:22:06

You have just started a new novel.

0:22:060:22:08

Is that going to be set in Turkey?

0:22:080:22:10

Frankly, I think if you are a writer from countries such as

0:22:110:22:14

Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, from places that have either wobbly

0:22:140:22:16

or no democracies, if you happen to be

0:22:160:22:19

a novelist from such a

0:22:190:22:20

background, you do not have the luxury of being able to...

0:22:200:22:23

You do not have the luxury of being able to

0:22:230:22:26

say, "I close my door.

0:22:260:22:27

I am just going to live in my own bubble."

0:22:270:22:34

What I like to do as a writer is to ask

0:22:340:22:37

questions.

0:22:370:22:37

Difficult questions about difficult issues, political taboos,

0:22:370:22:39

sexual taboos, cultural taboos, just to say, "Why is it like that?

0:22:390:22:42

Let's talk about this."

0:22:420:22:43

And then I like to leave the answers to

0:22:440:22:46

the readers.

0:22:460:22:49

And in a word, if you continue to think like that and

0:22:490:22:52

write like that, you will be able to write in London, but you won't be

0:22:520:22:56

able to write in Turkey.

0:22:560:22:58

Does that bother you?

0:22:580:22:59

Yes, it does bother me, of course.

0:22:590:23:01

I mean, it makes me sad, this feeling of sorrow, melancholy I

0:23:010:23:05

think just follows you.

0:23:050:23:06

Istanbul is a city that you can't just leave

0:23:060:23:08

behind.

0:23:080:23:08

You carry Istanbul with you in your soul, in your writing.

0:23:080:23:12

On the other hand, interestingly, writing in English, I have

0:23:120:23:14

started...

0:23:140:23:15

I have been writing both in Turkish and in English and that

0:23:150:23:18

commune between the two languages has also been an interesting

0:23:180:23:21

experience for me.

0:23:210:23:22

I realise over time, if there is humour in my work,

0:23:220:23:25

satire, irony, I find it much easier to express that in English, whereas

0:23:250:23:29

melancholy, sorrow, I find it easier to express in Turkish.

0:23:290:23:31

But one other thing I noticed is by writing in

0:23:310:23:34

English, maybe taking a step back and looking at Turkey from that

0:23:340:23:38

cognitive distance, maybe I can see things a bit more closely when I

0:23:380:23:41

write in English, paradoxically, because there is no baggage, there

0:23:410:23:44

is no cultural baggage.

0:23:440:23:55

It frees me from my anxieties and I feel maybe

0:23:550:23:59

more free to write whatever I want to write at that moment in time.

0:23:590:24:05

Elif Shafak, we must end there, but thank you so much

0:24:050:24:08

for being on HARDtalk.

0:24:080:24:09

Thank you.

0:24:090:24:10

It is a pleasure.

0:24:100:24:11

Thank you very much indeed.

0:24:110:24:21

Stephen Sackur speaks to Turkish novelist and writer Elif Shafak, who lives much of her life in London.

A dozen years ago, Europeans looked at Turkey and thought they saw a country becoming more like them, embracing western values and on a long-term track to EU membership. But today Europe sees authoritarianism, conservatism and repression embodied in the all-powerful figure of President Erdogan.

Does the West get anywhere close to understanding Turkey's complex culture and politics?