Do you believe that the people who are attacking you now, including on social media, have any interest in a correction?
Erdogan: In Turkey, when someone shouts: ”There’s a thief!”, people come running and lynch him. And then it doesn’t do him much good to shout: ”I’m not a thief!” The news website T24 asked me about all this on Saturday, and I put the error right. On Sunday, the same newspapers as the day before added fuel to the fire, by writing: the terrorist sympathiser denies her statements. Several media outlets, including the Turkish BBC, put out the correct quotes. But it didn’t change anything. Ahmet Hakan, the chief columnist at Hurriyet, repeated everything again on the Sunday. He was criticised online for that. People asked him if he was gunning for me, like Tahir Elci...
...the Kurdish human rights lawyer who was murdered by unknown assailants in November 2015...
Erdogan: Exactly. And on Tuesday, Ahmet Hakan was promoted to editor-in-chief. Of course, it could all be a coincidence, but how likely is that?
You’ve been in Germany for more than two years now. Did you imagine that you would go on being attacked?
Erdogan: After I left Turkey, there was a strange silence. Neither my literary success nor my political statements had any effect, which wasn’t the case for Can Dundar or Deniz Yucel, for example, who were regularly attacked. I know that – especially in times of war – you have to be careful what you say, but I don’t think the interview was especially provocative. I thought I might be attacked at some point, but not in this context. On the other hand, there was also a lot of solidarity from the Kurdish side. Kurds were talking about their schooldays on social media, and supporting what I’d said – Armenians and Circassians too. Someone said it was like a new MeToo movement. You can hate me for the things I’ve said – but please, not for things I didn’t say.
While all this is happening, there is still a legal case against you in Turkey. What’s the current status of that?
Erdogan: The case has been dragging on for three years now. Since I was released from prison two years ago, there hasn’t been much movement. Every four months my lawyers go to a court date that lasts barely fifteen minutes before it is adjourned again. There’s nothing I can do but wait it out.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about politics – as is so often the case when you give interviews. We sometimes risk forgetting that you’re an author. Your novel The Stone Building came out this year in German translation for the first time. What effect does it have on you, the fact that politics always seems to get in the way of literature?
Erdogan: There are some exceptions. I spent three hours talking about literature to ORF. But you’re right, that doesn’t happen very often. There’s a lot that bothers me about it, but there are things that bother me more. Gender inequality, for instance, and orientalism. Those things are a lot harder to fight. When I meet German journalists, they usually see the woman who was in prison, not the author. Not everyone, of course; there are exceptions. But the perspective of the general public is similar: why we should we ask Asli Erdogan about literature? We want to hear about her little prison cell! In that, there is exoticism, orientalism, hubris. On the other hand, literature isn’t as exciting as politics, and newspapers have to fulfil expectations. Most people aren’t especially interested in literature. Who wants to read a poetic text about torture? What I’ve learned is that the image other people have of you is fragile. An image you’ve been working on for twenty years can be destroyed in two hours. I can’t change that.
Interview conducted by Gerrit Wustmann
© Qantara.de 2019
Translated from the German by Ruth Martin