State Perpetrators of Violence and Political Victims in Müge Iplikçi’s Kafdagi and Mehmed Uzun’s Ask Gibi Aydinlik Ölüm Gibi Karanlik

By Jeannette E. Okur
Submitted to Session P4990 (Knowledge Exchange and Production across Borders, 2017 Annual Meeting
Human Rights;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper will examine the portrayal of the complex relationship between state perpetrators of violence and political victims in Müge Iplikçi’s 2008 novel, Kafdagi [Mount Qaf], and Mehmed Uzun’s 2005 novel, Ask Gibi Aydinlik Ölüm Gibi Karanlik [Light Like Love, Dark Like Death]. Kafdagi, a short international thriller in which a psychological mystery is unraveled, critiques the United States’ post 9/11 rendition program in gripping detail. Ask Gibi Aydinlik Ölüm Gibi Karanlik, a longer, more descriptive novel, relates the life journeys of two Turkish Kurds whose hard-won respective identities as ‘defender of the state’ and ‘freedom fighter’ begin to blur when they are brought face-to-face in a makeshift army prison. Ultimately, Uzun’s novel questions the logic of the Turkish state’s mission to subdue and control its Kurdish citizens, just as ?plikçi’s novel questions the logic of the U.S. government’s mission to render all potential terrorists and informants powerless. Despite differences in their choice of narrative structure, both authors liken the recurring struggles between the state actors and the so-called ‘terrorists’ they depict to an ongoing mythic battle between forces of ‘dark’ and ‘light.’ Whereas the female political victim in Kafdagi ultimately survives her ordeal, thanks to the efforts of an inside American sympathizer; neither the female nor the male protagonist in Ask Gibi Aydinlik Ölüm Gibi Karanlik is able to escape the fate the Turkish state has prescribed for them. My comparative analysis of key scenes from the two novels aims to illustrate why, according to the authors, the ties that bind perpetrator and victim surpass matters of national security and demand re-examination of human psychology. By extending the scholarly debate on trauma and post 9/11 novels to a novel about victims of the Turkish-Kurdish armed conflict, I hope to facilitate a more nuanced discussion of hitherto marginalized literary subject matter.