15 November 2016 – On the Day of the Imprisoned Writer take action with PEN for writers imprisoned for their work.
On 17 August 2016, renowned novelist and PEN member Aslı Erdoğan was arrested at her home in Istanbul, Turkey. A columnist and member of the pro-Kurdish opposition daily Özgür Gündem’s advisory board, which was shut down under the state of emergency that followed the failed coup of 15 July 2016, her arrest came alongside that of more than 20 other journalists and employees of the paper.
Erdoğan, who suffers from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, was sent to a jail in Istanbul on preliminary charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “undermining national unity.” She has been in pre-trial detention since her arrest, and no date has currently been set for her trial.
Erdoğan’s arrest comes amid heightened concerns for rights and freedoms following the failed coup attempt in July. As of 24 October 2016, 135 journalists had been charged and were in pre- trial detention; at least 8 others were detained without charge and others were in police custody under investigation.
The Turkish authorities have shut down more than 100 media outlets, censored at least 30 news websites, and stripped more than 600 members of the press of their credentials; 29 publishing houses have been ordered closed and there have been reports of wide-spread ill-treatment in custody. Over 70,000 people have detained, placed under investigation, suspended or fired, including teachers, civil servants, academics and others.
Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that he would extend the country’s state of emergency by 90 days, holding on to his almost unlimited discretionary powers to rule by decree. The extension came into effect on 19 October and will last for an additional 90 days, and could be renewed.
While recognizing the right of the Turkish authorities to bring those responsible for crimes during the attempted coup to justice, PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect their obligations under international law during the declared state of emergency and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, as appears to be the case with Aslı Erdoğan.
‘I have been very happy and honoured to be chosen as an honorary member of Danish PEN. On August 16, my apartment was busted by special forces policemen… I spent 72 hours in custody, in a cage. I have declared several times to the police, prosecutor and the judge that as a member of the ‘board of advisors’ of Özgür Gündem, I have no legal responsibility for the paper. I hope to be released as soon as I face the real trial.’ – Excerpt from a letter Erdoğan sent to Danish PEN.
Take Action – share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media
Send Appeals to the Turkish authorities:
- Urging them to immediately release Aslı Erdoğan who PEN believes is held solely in connection with her peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression;
- Calling for all detained writers and journalists to have access to lawyers and to be released if they are not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards;
- Calling on them not to use the state of emergency to crack down on peaceful dissent, civil society, media and education.
Minister of Justice
Mr. Bekir Bozdağ
Minister of Justice
Republic of Turkey Ministry of Justice
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
Twitter : @bybekirbozdag
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Fax : (+90 312) 525 58 31
Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Turkey in your country. A list of embassies can be found here.
Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.
PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Aslı Erdoğan and the situation of freedom of expression in Turkey. Please also consider adopting her as an honorary member of your Centre.
Social Media: Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter
- #Turkey release writer & PEN member Aslı Erdoğan immediately &unconditionally #ImprisonedWriter @pen_int
- On Day of the #ImprisonedWritertake action for writers resisting repression of their right to #FOE
Consider adopting Aslı Erdoğan as an Honorary Member of your Centre. Details of how to campaign for honorary members may be found in the Writers in Prison Committee Handbook, available here.
Aslı Erdoğan was born in Istanbul, in 1967. She graduate in Computer Engineering in 1988 and obtained a Master’s Degree in Physics in 1993 before working as a high-energy research physicist at CERN, Geneva and completed her thesis in Higgs Physics there. While she was living and working in Rio de Janeiro, she left her scientific career in 1995 and after a two-year stay in South America, she returned to Istanbul as a freelance writer.
Aslı Erdoğan’s first novel, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man), was published in 1994 and since published seven books. Her short story Wooden Birds received first prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition and her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades abroad and has been published in 15 languages. Her texts have also been translated to French and in 2005 she was shortlisted by respected French literary magazine, Lire, as one of the “50 most promising authors of tomorrow.”
A human rights activist since 1993, Aslı Erdoğan has frequently suffered persecution in Turkey, and has lived abroad in exile. In July 2015, she was welcomed as a guest writer in the Krakow City of Literature on a fellowship offered by the International Cities of Refuge Network, a close partner of PEN International. The City has also issued a petition calling for her release.
She has been adopted as an Honorary Member by Danish PEN and Norwegian PEN.
Please let us know about your activities for Day of the Imprisoned Writer and send us a report about them by 15 December 2016 so that we can share your successes and learnings with other Centres.
For further information please contact Sahar Halaimzai at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: Sahar.firstname.lastname@example.org