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Campaigning against Torture
Arthur Miller's Socks
  Arthur Miller and I landed at Istanbul airport on March 17, 1985. We were visiting Turkey on behalf of International P.E.N., to investigate allegations of the torture and persecution of Turkish writers. The trip got off to a bad start. I had two suitcases. One hadn't made it. Apart from other things, this left me with no socks. So Arthur lent me his. Bloody good ones they were too. Made to last.
We met dozens of writers. Those who had been tortured in prison were still trembling but they insisted on giving us a drink, pouring the shaking bottle into our glasses. One of the writer's wives was mute. She had fainted and lost her power of speech when she had seen her husband in prison. He was now out. His face was like a permanent tear. (I don't mean tear as in tears but tear as in being torn.)

Turkey at this time was a military dictatorship, fully endorsed by the United States.
The US Ambassador, hearing of our presence and thinking he was playing a clever card, gave a dinner party at the US embassy in Ankara in honour of Arthur. As I was Arthur's running mate they had to invite me too.
I had hardly taken my first bite at the hors d'oeuvres when I found myself in the middle of a ferocious row with the US political counsellor about the existence of torture in Turkish prisons.
This rattled on merrily throughout the dinner until, finally, Arthur rose to speak. Since he was the guest of honour the floor was his and he made it his in no uncertain terms. He discussed the term democracy and asked why, as the United States was a democracy, it supported military dictatorships throughout the world, including the country we were now in? "In Turkey", he said, "hundreds of people are in prison for their thoughts. This persecution is supported and subsidised by the United States. Where", he asked, "does that leave our understanding of democratic values?" He was as clear as a bell. The Ambassador thanked him for his speech.
After dinner I thought I'd keep out of trouble for a while and went to look at the paintings. Suddenly I saw the Ambassador and his aides bearing down on me. Why they weren't bearing down on Arthur I don't know. Perhaps he was too tall. The Ambassador said to me: "Mr. Pinter, you don't seem to understand the realities of the situation here. Don't forget, the Russians are just over the border. You have to bear in mind the political reality, the diplomatic reality, the military reality."
"The reality I've been referring to", I said, "is that of electric current on your genitals." The Ambassador drew himself, as they say, up to his full height and glared at me. "Sir, he said, "you are a guest in my house." He turned, as they also say, on his heel and his aides turned too. Arthur suddenly loomed up.
"I think I've been thrown out", I said. "I'll come with you", Arthur said, without hesitation. Being thrown out of the US embassy in Ankara with Arthur Miller -- a voluntary exile - was one of the proudest moments in my life.

(Written as a tribute to Arthur Miller, on the occasion of his 80th birthday)

Click here


Click here to view the correspondence from Ali Taygun
Turkish Playwright and Theatre Director, held in prison, Ankara, on the occassion of Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller's visit on behalf of PEN to Turkey in 1985.
Three poems

The Disappeared 1998

Lovers of light, the skulls,
The burnt skin, the white
Flash of the night,
The heat in the death of men.

The hamstring and the heart
Torn apart in a musical room,
Where children of the light
Know that their kingdom has come.




Order 1996

Are you ready to order?

No there is nothing to order
No I'm unable to order
No I'm a long way from order

And while there is everything,
And nothing, to order,
Order remains a tall order

And disorder feeds on the belly of order
And order requires the blood of disorder
And "freedom" and ordure and other
Need the odour of order to sweeten their murders

Disorder a beggar in a darkened room
Order a banker and a castiron womb
Disorder an infant in a frozen home Order
a soldier in a poisoned tomb

The Old Days 1996

Well, there was no problem.
All the democracies
(all the democracies)

were behind us.

So we had to kill some people.
So what?
Lefties get killed.

This is what we used to say
back in the old days:

Your daughter is a lefty

I'll ram this stinking battering-ram
all the way up and up and up and up
right the way through her lousy lefty body.

So that stopped the lefties.

They may have been the old days
but I'll tell you they were the good old days.

Anyway all the democracies
(all the democracies)
were behind us.

They said: just don't
(just don't)
tell anyone we're behind you.

That's all.
Just don't tell anyone
(just don't)
just don't tell anyone
we're behind you.

Just kill them.

Well, my wife wanted peace.
And so did my little children.
So we killed all the lefties
to bring peace to our little children.

Anyway there was no problem.
Anyway they're all dead anyway.

Medical Foundation for the Care and Victims of Torture

Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
Star House
104-108 Grafton Road
London NW5 4BD
020 7813 9999
020 7813 0033(fax)

The Medical Foundation is an independent charity working for the care of peole who have been tortured; it provides infromation on the existence of torture and the work currently being dome by health professionals to relieve the physical and psychological suffering of its victims.


The Foundation evolved out of the voluntary work of the British Medical Group of Amnesty International. For a number of years this small group of doctors examined and cared for people who had been tortured. However, by the end of 1984 it was clear, both from the rapidly increasing number of people asking for help and from the complexity of their injuries, that a more comprehensive service was needed. It was this reason that doctors of the group decided to establish a new charitable foundation for the care of victims of torture.

Harold Pinter was asked to become a patron in October 1998, having supported the work of the Foundation since its inception.

New World Order

Bill Paterson, Douglas McFerran and Michael Byrne in "The New World Order" at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, July 1991 (photograph Stuart Morris, The Independent on Sunday)

Review in The Independent on Sunday

A Man sits gagged and bound to his chair. Two guys lounge behind him, discussing in debonair fashion what they are going to do to him, never getting too specific. This is the new Harold Pinter, who has re-harnessed his genius for smart intimidation in the cause of political protest. The New World Order lasts 10 nerve-wracking minutes and gets closer to the nerve of torture than any play I know. Quite possibly Pinter can turn this kind of thing on and off at will; but I doubt that any imitator, however adept, could do it. No other writer has so fastidious an ear, and in his own production the results are served up with impeccably casual cruelty by Bill Paterson and Michael Byrne.

Robert Cushman, The Independent on Sunday, 21st July 1991

Click here for a transcript of the play Harold Pinter: "The New World Order" (runs c.8-10 mins)
One for the Road

In late 1983 Harold Pinter wrote the play "One for the Road", which features torture as its main theme. Inspired by the horror of what was happening in Turkey, it was first performed at the Lyric Theatre Studio, Hammersmith, 13th March 1984, directed by Harold Pinter, with Alan Bates, Roger Lloyd Pack, Jenny Quayle

In this section you can see a transcript of one of the key scenes, and read part of an interview between Harold Pinter and Nicholas Hern, on the writing of this work

Harold Pinter acted in One for the Road at the Gate Theatre in 2001 directed by Robin Lefevre

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