For the writer Elif Shafak, the quality of democracy is gauged by the functioning of public spaces
Elif Shafak took part in the CCCB debate Turkey, at the Margins of Europe with a lecture titled “Erosion of Freedoms and Struggles of Women”. Her view of public space is mainly concerned with two key aspects, gender proximity and the importance of urban memory, since these are not only indicators of the quality of the spaces we share but also of democracy. With regard to the former, she particularly emphasises the situation of women in the Middle East and in Turkey because they have been pushed back into private space, which then prevents public space from being diverse, fluid and open to a variety of identities. As for the latter, she denounces the dangers of collective amnesia or, in other words, breaking with the past and thus paving the way for authoritarian regimes wishing to impose their imperialist dreams. The example she gives is what she considers to be one of the main present-day trends in populist movements: a return to some lost golden age, as is happening in Russia, Turkey and also the United States.
When asked about her favourite public space. Shafak defines herself as an urbanite, as someone who likes to discover cities and to get lost in places that are not frequented by tourists. She also collects graffiti, the wall writings of anonymous voices, for these are the real stories which never appear in the headlines.