Three months have passed since the 2014 Index Awards and we caught up with arts nominee, Meltem Arikan. The Turkish playwright and author told Index she has finished the script of a new play, Sheep Republic. She hoped it would be staged in Turkey, but the political situation in the country prevents this from happening. She looks forward to hopefully having it staged in the UK with the team who brought her previous play, “Mi Minor” to life.
Index: What projects have you been working on since the Index Awards?
Arikan: I wrote a performance piece for The International Performance Festival Cardiff called “Recalling love: And woman and man” and it was performed in June by Memet Ali Alabora and Pinar Ogun, whom I created Mi Minor with. Then I finished writing the script of my new play “Sheep Republic” which is about oppression and how easily it’s accepted by people.
The play was written to be staged in Turkey originally, however it doesn’t look like it is going to be possible because of political reasons. So we want to stage it here with the creative team of “Mi Minor”.
Nowadays I am working on another theatre piece where I’m questioning the concept of “belonging” through my own experiences, feelings and observations of nationalities, races, languages and communities; this time to be performed in Welsh language, and quite unusually English language will be the foreign language. It will be previewed in Eisteddfod Festival as part of Theatr Genedlaethol’s Cwt Drama on 7 August.
Index: What do you hope for the future of these projects and your life in the next coming months?
Arikan: I always find questions about hope quite difficult to answer. So much that I have even named one of my novels “Hope is a curse.” My agent Meg Davis has introduced my banned book “Stop hurting my flesh” to publishers in the UK. It’s an ongoing process but the idea of my novel being published, excites me very much, just like the thought of “Mi Minor” to be staged in the UK.
Index: Before the awards, did you feel you had less recognition?
Arikan: After being nominated by Index, in February 2014, I was invited to PEN Ethiopia 3rd congress with Julia Farrington from Index, where I met the President of German PEN, Josef Haslinger, who has recently invited us to Frankfurt Book Fair in October to introduce my story and my work.
It was great to be nominated by Index and it surely gave me more recognition. Moreover, being a part of the Index family and to be able to write articles about freedom of speech and expression is just as important for me.
Last year during Gezi Park demonstrations it was hard enough to deal with the false allegations made in various media about my play and the “Mi Minor” creative team. We were accused of rehearsing Gezi park demonstrations with our play. We were completely exhausted, and didn’t feel safe to leave our houses in Istanbul. They were making a lot of TV shows about “Mi Minor” which included an edited version of one of my speeches that I made six years ago about secularism. As a result of these accusations I have received thousands of death and rape threats. The fear I witnessed in my son’s eyes and the anxiety that my partner was living through was what upset me the most. I still feel fragile when I recall the moments I had to leave them behind and come to the UK to stay alive. Because of the notorious recognition, I was even being cautious while walking on the streets of London in the first couple of months of coming here.
Index: How has your life changed since being nominated for an Index Award?
Arikan: I came to the UK with one piece of luggage, leaving everything behind, then I met Julia Farrington and she offered to do an interview with me. So we archived my story with three interviews which was very difficult and encouraging for me at the time.
Later I was nominated for an Index Award, and I met Index staff through the Index Awards and when they asked me to write for the website, I was delighted. Writing is what keeps me sane. I don’t know how to survive without writing so I am thankful to be supported as a writer by Index On Censorship.