In his essay “It Is the Dark We Have to Fear,” Edward Albee wrote: “People don’t like the light — it reveals too much.”
As true for self-knowledge as for freedom of information, Albee’s observation is particularly urgent today in Turkey, the world’s leading jailer of journalists.
That’s why I am proud to announce that the Edward Albee Foundation has granted me a fellowship to write a nonfiction book “Günaydın from New York,” about a U.S. court case that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan furiously tried to censor.
My working title refers to my daily greeting of “good morning” to massive numbers of Turkish readers hoping to learn about the case of wealthy gold trader Reza Zarrab, a former ally of Erdoğan who implicated him and his top government officials in a multibillion-dollar money laundering scheme.
Zarrab’s prosecution carries profound implications for both the United States and Turkey. Two of President Donald Trump’s allies – former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey – signed on as Zarrab’s attorneys to participate in quasi-diplomatic negotiations for his release. The failure of that effort turned Zarrab into a U.S. government informant late last year, causing Erdoğan to fulminate against the New York case as a “judicial coup.” Possible financial penalties for his country’s state-run Halkbank threaten to cripple Turkey's fragile economy. Revelations from a New York courtroom showed that one of Erdoğan's former high-ranking ministers took between "45 to 50 million" euros in bribes. Zarrab testified that Erdoğan himself ordered the illicit trades. Turkish prosecutors in Istanbul who accused Erdoğan's allies of corruption in December 2013 wound up imprisoned or in exile.
Small wonder that millions of Turks turned to Twitter to overcome what one expert in Istanbul described to me as a media blackout on the case there. Tens of thousands followed my feed, and analytics showed that my tweets regularly crossed tens of millions of screens while live-tweeting the trial on heavy news days. Suddenly transformed into a public figure in a country that I never visited, I regularly received heartbreaking messages from Turkish people whose family and friends were in jail or who themselves faced persecution.
Partly a crime drama, partly a meditation on press freedom, with accents of a memoir, “Günaydın from New York” is a labor of love that several followers of my reporting urged me to write.
Note: This book is currently seeking a publisher, particularly one with experience in this topic, Turkish translators and an ability to reach readers in Turkey. Please contact me if you have any recommendations or are a publisher interested in this project.
A word of thanks to the Edward Albee Foundation:
As a playwright and a reporter, Albee has been a lifelong inspiration for me – a man whose style my juvenilia slavishly imitated before I found my voice as an adult writer. Equally impressive as his penetrating insights about the anxiety of self-discovery in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “Zoo Story,” “Seascape,” “The Play About the Baby,” and so many other works, was Albee’s fundamental humanity – his lifelong fights against censorship and for human dignity. Like so many others he inspired, I felt lucky to have met him as a young writer and sad to learn when he died.
It will be a privilege and an honor to finish this book in his Montauk home this summer.