GeriGündem Pinter remembered for work on Kurdish rights in Turkey
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Pinter remembered for work on Kurdish rights in Turkey

ISTANBUL - The Nobel Prize winner playwright Harold Pinter was a vocal opponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, likening U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to the Nazis and calling former British Prime Minister Tony Blair a "mass murderer." He also criticized a former ban on the Kurdish language in Turkey after the 1980 military coup and wrote a play on the issue

Harold Pinter, the British playwright and Nobel laureate famous for brooding portrayals of domestic life and his barbed politics, lost his battle against cancer Thursday. Pinter is best remembered here for his advocacy of Kurdish rights. He was 78.

Pinter, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005, was a vocal opponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, likening U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to the Nazis and calling former British Prime Minister Tony Blair a "mass murderer."

Turkey's policies were also a target of his political campaigns. Kurdish rights were among the causes Pinter embraced.

Highly critical of the policies endorsed after the military coup of 1980, Pinter came to Turkey with prominent American playwright and essayist Arthur Miller and visited political inmates.

It was Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize for Literature winner one year after Pinter and author Gündüz Vassaf, who met Pinter and Miller at the airport upon their arrival in Istanbul.

"Pinter was my friend, and a very good man, I am so sorry," said Pamuk talking to daily Radikal newspaper. "He made a revolution in 20th century theater," he said.

Following his visit to Turkey, in 1988 Pinter wrote "The Mountain Language," which is a play about Kurdish as a forbidden language.

"His is a name I can never forget. The Kurdish language was forbidden by a law after the Sept. 12 [1980] coup. He then wrote ’The Mountain Language.’ It was a significant solidarity gesture," said human rights activist and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & The Economic Review.

Zarakolu is also an honorary member of English PEN, a writer’s association. Pinter’s visit created great surprise in Turkey, where they found many people were in jail, Zarakolu said.

"He had become the unwanted man in Turkey because of his play ’The Mountain,’" said Mehmet Ergen, theater producer and director, reported daily Radikal yesterday.

"However he had foreseen the democratization process that it is proceeding today. And this week even on state’s TV channel TRT, the Kurdish language can be heard," he said.

Use silence in plays, not in life
Pinter won the Nobel Prize for his work including "The Caretaker" and "The Birthday Party."

"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel academy said on its Web site after making the award.

Silences are one of the main characteristics of Pinter’s plays, and the author used them to increase tension and indicate menace.

Politically, the Brit was far from silent, speaking out against Western foreign policy and saving his most vehement criticism for the United States, which in his Nobel lecture he called "brutal, indifferent, scornful, and ruthless."

In his 1985 visit to Turkey he was invited to the U.S. Embassy with Miller for dinner.

Both criticized human rights abuses and the lack of free speech in Turkey, and U.S. support for the country. They were ejected from the mission after the meal.

"Being thrown out of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara with Arthur Miller Ğ a voluntary exile Ğ was one of the proudest moments of my life," Pinter said on his Web site.

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless," Pinter said in his Nobel speech. Pinter dedicated more than half the talk to a condemnation of U.S. foreign policy and U.K. support for it. "The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War."

In his speech, the playwright criticized U.S. support since 1945 for regimes in Nicaragua, Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador and Chile.

In recent years, he saved his most vociferous criticisms for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Pinter is one of the last representatives of a generation of sincere authors, dealing with social issues and human rights," said author Ahmet Ümit.

A person dealing with world issues
"Currently dealing with social issues is like following fashion and many authors behave as if they are interested in. This makes them earn fame and career. However Pinter sincerely believed in this and he was an enlightened person dealing with world issues," he said.

The author’s breakthrough play was "The Caretaker," (1959), which dealt with the struggle for personal power between two brothers, Aston and Mick, and a tramp called Davies, whom Aston invites to stay at their house.

The play, first performed in 1960 in London, was well-received by audiences and was described by the Observer critic Alan Pryce-Jones as "the most dazzling evening to reach the London theater this year."

Pinter’s plays, written in a style that gave the English language the word "Pinteresque," are characterized by a minimum of plot and the use of silence to increase tension.

They are often set in a single room where characters are threatened by forces or people whose precise intentions can be difficult to define. One of Pinter’s recurring themes is menace, both spoken and unspoken.

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