Turkish Nobel laureate slams climate of 'fear' in Turkey

He accused the government of pressuring the media and especially deplored the harassment of opposition journalists

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Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2006, denounced what he called a climate of "fear" in his country, in an interview published Sunday.

"The worst is that there's a fear. I find that everyone is afraid; it's not normal.... Freedom of expression has fallen to a very low level," Pamuk told the Hurriyet newspaper.

He accused the government of pressuring the media and especially deplored the harassment of opposition journalists.

"Lots of my friends tell me that such and such a journalist has lost his job. Now it's even journalists who are very close to the government who are getting harassed," said the 62-year-old novelist, who has repeatedly clashed with the Turkish state.

He also expressed dismay over recent remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asserting that men and women are not equal, which grabbed world headlines.

Pamuk said his just-published novel "Kafamda bir Tuhaflik" (Something Weird in My Head) "in fact deals with the oppression suffered by women in Turkey.... If we were to criticise Turkey from the outside, it would be the place of women in society.

"Our politicians make thoughtless statements on this point as if they want to start a fight," he said in a thinly veiled reference to the president.

Erdogan, who took over Turkey's presidency in August after serving as prime minister for more than a decade, is accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Critics have long accused his Islamic-rooted government of seeking to erode the country's secular principles and limiting the civil liberties of women.

Pamuk, a major cultural figure known for novels such as "Snow" and "My Name is Red", was the first Turk to be awarded a Nobel prize.

The 2006 literature award caused a stir, coming a year after Pamuk broke a taboo in Turkey by saying in a magazine interview that one million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in the country during World War I.

His books have been published in more than 60 languages.