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Pamuk flees to US, fears for life

London, Feb. 14: Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk is living in exile in the US and is believed to be in fear for his life.

Amid a climate of intimidation that has seen the prosecution and even murder of dissident intellectuals throwing into doubt Turkey’s aspiration to the join the EU, Pamuk, 54, who is living in New York, is said to have told friends he has set no deadline for his return. Instead, according to the prominent Istanbul columnist Fatih Altayli, the writer has quietly gone into exile.

“What I was told was more than mere rumour,” said Altayli. “Pamuk recently withdrew $400,000 from his bank account and said he would leave Turkey and would not be returning to his country any time soon.”

Following the murder of an ethnic Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, last month, Pamuk expressed fears for his own safety. The writer enraged Turkish nationalists by acknowledging that under the Ottoman empire Turks had triggered the genocide of one million Armenians nearly a century ago.

Such is the sensitivity of Pamuk’s position, his agent and others close to the novelist have declined invitations to comment publicly on Altayli’s allegation.

During the 1990s Pamuk, whose novels includes Cevdet Bey and His Sons and The Black Book, began to write candidly about human rights issues in Turkey. The country’s authorities vociferously campaign against any suggestion that the state has inherited responsibility for the unacknowledged massacre of Armenians.

Two weeks ago, Pamuk abruptly cancelled a speaking tour of Germany, fearing that his engagements would expose him to hostile elements within the diaspora. Yasin Hayal, a nationalist charged with incitement to murder Dink, made what appeared to be a threat against Pamuk. He said: “Orhan Pamuk be careful.”

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