Turkey Continues to Persecute Writers

Posted on July 18, 2006

Turkey continues to persecute any writer who dares to write a history of the country that is in any way critical of the Turkish government or its previous actions.

The case against Turkish author Elif Shafak, who is charged with "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 in the Turkish Criminal Code, was reopened. Shafak wrote "The Bastard of Istanbul," in which a character references Armenian genocide, Thebookstandard.com reported Tuesday.

An Istanbul public prosecutor dismissed the charges last month, based on arguments that the book is a work of fiction and therefore cannot be prosecuted. But a complaint from a member of the Unity of Jurists caused the seventh high criminal court to overrule the decision. Similar charges have also been brought against Shafak's translator Asli Bican and publisher Semi Soekmen, of the Metis Publishing House.

"The situation in Turkey has changed since the introduction of Article 301 last year," Director of the Writers in Prison Committee at International PEN Sara Whyatt, told Thebookstandard. "I think the trials are intended to harass and intimidate these writers and journalists. Elif Shafak is at the beginning of what could be a long and painful process."

Turkey has a continuing pattern of repression and persecution of fiction and nonfiction authors who write something that the government doesn't agree with. Orhan Pamuk just barely escaped being thrown in jail for life for "insulting Turkishness" when the rest of the world expressed outrage over the charges. But apparently, Turkey hasn't changed its policies at all: Elif Shafak is merely its latest target for persecution.

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