Writers unite to condemn the detention of leading writer Ahmet Altan and his brother, academic Mehmet Altan, and to call for their immediate release
We the undersigned call upon democrats throughout the world, as well as those who care about the future of Turkey and the region in which it exerts a leading role, to protest the vendetta the government is waging against its brightest thinkers and writers who may not share their point of view.
The background to this letter is the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, which mercifully failed and was quickly subdued. Had the Turkish people themselves not resisted this assault on their institutions, the result would have been years of misery.
In the aftermath of that coup, it is understandable that the government would have imposed a temporary state of emergency. However, the failed coup should not be a pretext for a McCarthy-style witch-hunt nor should that state of emergency be conducted with scant regard for basic rights, rules of evidence or even common sense.
We as writers, academics and defenders of freedom of expression are particularly disturbed to see colleagues we know and respect being imprisoned under emergency regulations. Journalists such as Şahin Alpay and Nazlı Ilıcak and the novelist Aslı Erdoğan have been outspoken defenders of democracy and opponents of militarism and tyranny of any sort.
We are particularly disturbed to see the prominent novelist Ahmet Altan, and his brother, Mehmet Altan, a writer and distinguished professor of economics, being detained in a dawn raid on 10 September 2016. The pair stands accused of somehow giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a television panel show broadcast 14 July, the night before the coup attempt.
Ahmet Altan is one of Turkey’s most important writers, whose novels appear in translation and sell in the millions. He was also editor-in-chief for five years of the liberal daily newspaper Taraf. The paper championed the public’s right to know. He has been prosecuted many times over his career – in the 1990s for trying to get a Turkish readership to empathize with the country’s Kurds and more recently for trying to force an apology from the prime minister for the 2011 Roboski massacre in which 34 villagers were bombed. He appeared in court as recently as 2 September, charged with handling state secrets based on an indictment that was in large part copy-pasted from two entirely different cases.
Mehmet Altan is a professor at Istanbul University, a columnist whose numerous books campaigned to rebuild Turkey’s identity not on race or religion but respect for human rights. Like his brother and others now in jail, his crime is not supporting a coup but the effectiveness of his criticism of the current government, whose initial progress in broadening democracy is now jammed in reverse gear.
We therefore call upon the Turkish government to cease its persecution of prominent writers and to speed the release of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan as well as so many of their colleagues wrongly accused.
Héctor Abad, Writer.
Daron Acemoğlu, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Professor Taner Akçam, Kaloosdian/ Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies, Clark University.
Professor Samim Akgönül, Historian, political scientist, University of Strasbourg.
Dogan Akhanli, Writer, PEN Germany.
Meena Alexander, Poet, writer ; Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center in the PhD program in English.
Monica Ali, Writer.
Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, Knight Chair in Journalism & UNESCO Chair in Communication ; Director, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin.
Gillian Anderson, Film, television, theatre actress.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist.
Chloe Aridjis, Writer, Mexico / United Kingdom.
Ingeborg Arlt, Writer, PEN Germany.
John Ashbery, Poet.
Alison Assiter, Professor of Feminist Theory, The University of the West of England.
Margaret Atwood, Writer.
Michael Augustin, Poet, translator, Germany.
Chryssanthi Avlami, Historian, Panteion University, Athens.
Thomas Bachmann, Author.
Çiğdem Balım, Senior lecturer, Indiana University.
Etienne Balibar, Philosopher ; Professor Emeritus, University of Paris-Ouest ; Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London.
Hans Jürgen Balmes, Editor, S. Fischer Verlage.
Irene Banias, Assistant Professor of Human Rights, International Law, European Law, Peace and Conflict, Boğaziçi University.
Russell Banks, Writer.
Peter Barbey, Publisher, The Village Voice.
Julian Barnes, Writer.
Robert Barnett, Senior Research Fellow and Director, Modern Tibetan Studies, Columbia University.
Jürgen Baurmann, Professor Emeritus, University of Wuppertal, Germany.
Professor Seyla Benhabib, Yale University.
John Berger, Writer.
Sara Bershtel, Publisher, Metropolitan Books / Henry Holt.
Sophie Bessis, Author and scholar, Paris.
İsmail Beşikçi, Writer and sociologist.
Johann Bihr, Head of the Eastern Europe & Central Asia desk, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Clifford Bob, Raymond J. Kelley Endowed Chair in International Relations, Duquesne University.
Eric Bogosian, Actor, playwright, novelist and historian.
Mirko Bonné, Writer.
Giancarlo Bosetti, Journalist and writer.
Vera Botterbusch, Filmmaker, photographer, writer.
Patrick Boucheron, Professor, History, Collège de France.
Olivier Bouquet, Professor, History, University of Paris VII.
Hamit Bozarslan, Professor, History, EHESS.
Warren Breckman, Rose Family Endowed Term Chair, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania.
Breyten Breytenbach, Writer, South Africa / France.
Daphné Breytenbach, Independent journalist, France.
Lisette Buchholz, Publisher, persona verlag.
Susan Buck-Morss, Philosopher and intellectual historian, Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University.
Judith Butler, Philosopher, gender theorist.
A.S. Byatt (Dame Susan Duffy), Novelist, poet, Booker Prize winner.
Jamie Byng, Publisher, Canongate Books.
Claude Calame, Professor, History – Anthropology, EHESS, Paris.
Simon Callow, Actor, musician, writer and theatre director.
Peter Carey, Writer.
Nick Cave, Musician, author, screenwriter.
Baltasar Cevc, Lawyer, Erlangen, Germany.
Ying Chan, Journalist, Winner of CPJ International Press Freedom Award.
Roger Chartier, Professor, History, Collège de France.
Frances Dal Chele, Photographer.
Francisca Cho, Associate Professor Chair, Theology Dept., Georgetown University.
Noam Chomsky, Linguist ; Institute Professor of Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Claus Clausen, Publisher, Tiderne Skifter, Denmark
Nathalie Clayer, Professor, History, EHESS.
Jonathan Coe, Novelist.
JM Coetzee, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Professor Dominique Custos, Centre for Research on Fundamental Rights and the Evolution of Law (CRDFED), University of Caen, France.
Burak Çopur, Political Scientist, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Michael Cunningham, Author and screenwriter.
Sophie Dahl, Writer.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Ariel Dorfman, Novelist, playwright ; Walter Hines Page Research Professor Emeritus of Literature, Duke University.
Costas Douzinas, Professor of Law, University of London.
Tanja Dückers, Writer.
Horst Eckert, Writer.
Scott Ellsworth, Author ; lecturer, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan.
Jean Louis Fabiani, Professor, Humanities, EHESS.
Catherine Farin, Editor, S. Fischer Verlage.
Rita Felski, Professor of literature, University of Virginia and University of Southern Denmark.
Elena Ferrante, Writer.
Sandro Ferri, Publisher, edizioni e/o, Europa editions.
Sascha Feuchert, Vice-President and Writers-in-Prison-Commissioner of PEN Germany ; Professor of Literature, University of Giessen.
Nancy Fraser, Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics, New School for Social Research.
Stephen Frears, Film director.
Maureen Freely, Writer ; President of English PEN.
Regine Kress-Fricke, Writer, performance artist.
Uwe Friesel, Writer and translator ; Member of International PEN / First President of the German Union VS.
Nina zu Fürstenberg, President of Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations.
Neil Gaiman, Writer.
Rebeca García Nieto, Writer, Spain.
Marcel Gauchet, Philosopher, EHESS ; publisher of Le Debat.
David Gaunt, Professor of History, Södertörn University, Stockholm.
Costas Gavras, Film director and producer.
Nina George, PEN Germany Advisory Board Member.
Graeme Gibson, Novelist.
Mario Giordano, Writer.
Maurice Godelier, Professor of Anthropology, EHESS, Paris.
Jordan Goodman, Honorary Research Fellow in the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at College, London .
Professor Anthony T. Grafton, Historian, Princeton University.
Roland Greene, Mark Pigott KBE Professor in the School of Humanties and Sciences, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Stanford University.
Constanze Güthenke, Associate Professor of Greek Literature, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford.
Ulla Hahn, Writer.
Matt Haig, Novelist and journalist.
Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and chair of the Freedom of Expression Institute.
David Hare, Playwright.
Josef Haslinger, President, PEN-Centers, Germany.
Chris Hedges, Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner.
Amy Hempel, Short story writer and journalist.
Wolfgang Hermann, Author, Austria.
Uwe-Karsten Heye, Writer.
Jim Hicks, Executive Editor of the Massachusetts Review ; Professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Kathy High, Interdisciplinary artist, curator, scholar.
Adam Hochschild, Journalist, historian.
James Hollings, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Massey University Wellington, New Zealand.
Nick Hornby, Writer.
William Horsley, journalist and broadcaster; Association of European Journalists board member.
Violaine Huisman, Director of Humanities, Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Mark Lee Hunter, Investigative journalist, Paris.
Zaineb Istrabadi, Department of Near East Languages and Cultures, Indiana University.
Zehra İpşiroğlu, Author ; Professor of Theatre Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen.
Ayesha Jalal, Mary Richardson Professor of History ; Director, Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University.
Gabriela Jaskulla, Writer and journalist.
Amy Edith Johnson, Columbia University.
Philippe Kalfayan, Lawyer, Associate Researcher at Human Rights Research Centre of Paris II Panthéon Assas University, France.
Joachim Kalka, Writer and translator.
Karin D. Karlekar, Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs, PEN America.
Norayr Kasper, Cinematographer, visual artist.
A.L. Kennedy, Writer.
Raymond Kévorkian, Historian, Paris.
Tanja Kinkel, Writer.
Hubert Klöpfer, Publisher and member of PEN Germany.
Dimosthenis Kourtovik, Writer, member of the Greek Writers’ Union.
Hans-Lukas Kieser, Historian of the late Ottoman Empire and Turkey, Professor of modern history at the University of Zurich.
Laurens van Krevelen, Writer and publisher, The Netherlands.
Barbara Krohn, Writer.
Hari Kunzru, Novelist and journalist.
Hanif Kureishi, Writer.
Barbara La Rosa, Translator, Italy.
Olivia Laing, Writer and critic.
Jean-Manuel Larralde, Professor of Public Law, University of Caen, Normandy.
Camille Laurens, Writer.
Marie Lecomte-Tilouine, Director of research at CNRS, France.
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Vice President of PEN International.
Jo Lendle, Publisher, Carl Hanser Verlage.
Wolf Lepenies, Professor, Sociology, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin; Freie Universität.
Gerard Libaridian, Historian and diplomat.
Mark Lilla, Writer, Professor of Humanities, Columbia University.
Antoine Lilti, Professor, History, EHESS.
Tod Linafelt, Professor of Biblical Studies, Theology Dept., Georgetown University.
Professor Christoph Lindenmeyer, Author and journalist ; member of PEN-Center Germany.
Anne Linsel, Cultural journalist, filmmaker, documentary director ; member of PEN Center Germany.
Clementina Liuzzi, Literary agent.
Gert Loschütz, Writer.
Michael Löwy, Emeritus Research Director, CNRS, Paris.
Gila Lustiger, Writer, Germany / France.
Jonas Lüscher, Writer ; member of PEN-Center Germany.
Lindsay Mackie, Board member of English PEN and chair of its Readers and Writers Programme.
Alberto Manguel, Writer, Director of the National Library of Argentina.
Jean-Christophe Marcel, Professor of sociology, University of Bourgogne.
Petros Márkaris, Novelist.
Anthony Marx, President and CEO of The New York Public Library ; former president of Amherst College.
Frédérique Longuet Marx, Maître de conférences en sociologie à l’Université de Caen.
Alane Salierno Mason, Vice President and Executive Editor, W. W. Norton & Company.
Hisham Matar, Writer.
Claudia Mattalucci, Professor, Anthropology, University of Milan-Bicocca.
Tom McCarthy, National affairs correspondent, The Guardian.
Ian McEwan, Novelist and screenwriter.
Jay McInerney, Novelist.
Maureen N. McLane, Professor of English, Director of Honors, New York University.
Norbert Mecklenburg, Professor of Literature, University of Cologne.
Allan Megill, Professor of History, University of Virginia.
Maria Meinel, Translator.
Laurent Mignon, Associate Professor of Turkish ; Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford.
Warren Montag, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Occidental College, Los Angeles, California.
Rick Moody, Writer.
Luiza Franco Moreira, Poet ; Professor and Chair, Department of Comparative Literature at Binghampton University.
Edgar Morin, Philosopher.
Paul W. Morris, Director of Literary Programs at PEN American Center.
Kata Moser, Associate researcher at the Institute for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Bern, Switzerland.
Dirk Moses, Professsor, History, University of Sydney.
Glenn W. Most, Professor of Classics, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa ; The University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought.
Ninna Mörner, Editor of Baltic Worlds, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University, Sweden.
Madhusree Mukerjee, Writer.
Neel Mukherjee, Writer.
Enrique Murillo, Editor, Los libros del lince.
Herta Müller, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Sten Nadolny, Novelist.
Azar Nafisi, Writer.
Jean Luc Nancy, Philosopher.
Antonio Negri, Philosopher.
Lynn Nesbit, Literary agent ; Co-founder, Janklow & Nesbit Associates.
Ralf Nestmeyer, Author, historian.
Mary Ann Newman, Translator.
Steve Newman, Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English, Temple University.
Thandie Newton, Actress.
Dr. Bui Hanh Nghi, Author.
Dr. Wulf Noll, Writer.
Olivier Nora, Publisher, Editions Grasset.
Françoise Nyssen, Publisher, Actes Sud.
Andrew O’Hagan, Novelist.
Hans-Christian Oeser, Literary Translator, Member of PEN.
Claus Offe, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.
Bertrand Ogilvie, Professor of philosophy, University of Paris 8.
Osman Okkan, Turkish-German Forum of Culture.
Robert Olson, Professor of Middle East history and politics, University of Kentucky.
Michael Ondaatje, Novelist and poet.
Sandra Ozzola, Publisher, edizioni e/o, Europa editions.
Erol Önderoğlu, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Turkey.
Elisabeth Östnäs, Writer, Sweden.
Cem Özdemir, Chairman and Member of Parliament, Alliance 90/ The Greens, Germany.
Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Xavier Papaïs, Philosopher, University of Geneva.
Christian Parenti, Author, investigative journalist.
Tim Parks, Writer.
Philip N. Pettit, Historian, Philosopher, Princeton University; Australian National University.
DBC Pierre, Writer.
Angela Pimenta, Columnist and president of Projor (The Institute for Development of Journalism), São Paulo.
Philip Pullman, Writer.
Justin Quinn, Writer, translator ; Associate Professor, University of West Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Eduardo Rabasa, Writer.
Marie-Joëlle Redor-Fichot, Professor of Public Law, University of Caen, Normandy.
Petra Reski, author and journalist.
Judith Revel, Professor, Philosophy, Paris West University Nanterre La Défense.
Michele Riot-Sarcey, Historian, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Paris 8, France.
Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Philosophy Hall, Columbia University.
Dalita Roger-Hacyan, Associate Professor, Université Paris 1, France.
Daniel Rondeau, Writer; former ambassador.
Professor Michael Rothberg, 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies, UCLA.
Arundhati Roy, Writer, Booker Prize winner.
Frederick J. Ruf, Professor, Department of Theology, Georgetown University.
Alan Rusbridger, Journalist, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and the former editor-in-chief of The Guardian.
Salman Rushdie, Writer ; Winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Booker of Bookers Prize.
Professor Philippe Sands QC, University College London and Matrix Chambers.
Gisèle Sapiro, Professor of Sociology at the EHESS and Research Director at the CNRS, Vice-President of the EHESS for International Relations.
Aram Saroyan, Poet and novelist.
Roberto Saviano, Journalist, writer.
William A. Schabas, Professor of International Law, School of Law, Middlesex University, London.
Rafik Schami, Syrian-German writer.
Anya Schiffrin, Director (IMAC) at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
Peter Schneider, Writer, Berlin.
Prof Dr. Wilfried F. Schoeller, Author, literary critic, professor of 20th Century Literatute, Literary Criticism Media, University.
Eugene Schoulgin, Vice President, PEN International.
Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor, Psychosocial Studies,
Birkbeck College, University of London.
Professor Salvatore Settis, Art Historian, President of Louvre Museum’s Scientific Board ; Former President of Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Writer.
Elif Shafak, Writer.
Jayeeta Sharma, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto.
Peter Sillem, Editorial Director, S. Fischer Verlag.
Shelly Silver, Associate Professor, Visual Arts Program, Columbia University.
Dan Simon, Founder and publisher, Seven Stories Press.
Jeanne W. Simon, Associate Professor, Political Sciences and Public Administration, University of Concepción, Chile.
Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists.
Laura M. Slatkin, Professor, Classical Studies, New York University.
Ali Smith, Writer.
Marie-Carmen Smyrnelis, Historian, EHESS.
Michael Slater, Assistant Professor, Theology Dept., Georgetown University.
Kostas Sofoulis, Professor Emeritus, The Aegean University, Samos.
Andrew Solomon, President, PEN America.
Emmanuel Souchier, Professor, Sciences of Communications, Paris-Sorbonne University.
Thomas Sparr, Suhrkamp Verlag executive.
Céline Spector, Professor, Unit of Formation and Research of Philosophy, University Paris-Sorbonne.
Barbara Spinelli, Writer; member of the European Parliament (group GUE-NGL /European United Left-Nordic Green Left).
Elsa Stamatopoulou, Director, Ιndigenous Peoples’ Rights Program, Institute for the Study of Human Rights ; Adjunct Professor, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University.
Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review.
Juliet Stevenson, Stage and screen actress.
Klaus Stiller, Writer.
Tom Stoppard, Playwright and screenwriter.
Anna Storm, Associate Professor, Södertörn University, Sweden.
Ulrich Straeter, Writer and publisher.
Kai Strittmatter, Journalist, Süddeutche Zeitung
Leander Sukov, Author, Germany.
Johann P. Tammen, Poet and editor, Member of PEN.
Etienne Tassin, Professor of Philosophy, University of Paris Diderot, France.
Sylvie Tayssig, Researcher, Philosophy, CNRS.
Adam Thirlwell, Writer.
Emma Thompson, Actress, comedian, writer.
Uwe Timm, Writer, Germany.
Ilija Trojanow, Writer, translator, publisher.
Özgür Türesay, Senior Lecturer, Applied School of Advanced Studies, 4th Section, Section of historical and philological sciences.’’
Anja Utler, Writer, Germany.
Regula Venske, General Secretary, PEN Germany.
Charles V Wait, President, CEO and chairman of the board of The Adirondack Trust Company, Saratoga Springs, New York ; Director of the New York Bankers Association.
Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University.
Günter Wallraff, Writer.
Irvine Welsh, Novelist and playwright.
Herbert Wiesner, Literary Critic, Member of German PEN Centre, Berlin.
Michel Wieviorka, Professor of Sociology, EHESS.
Stephen M. Wilson, Assistant Professor, Theology Dept., Georgetown University.
Dr. Thomas Wohlfahr, Director of Literature Workshop, House for Poetry, Berlin.
Felicia Zeller, Writer.
Attila Zenciroğlu, orthopedic surgeon, Turkish Medical Association