Turkey: writer & activist Asli Erdogan held on terror charges

Turkey: writer and human rights activist
Asli Erdogan held on terror charges

A version of this statement originally appeared on the PEN International website.

PEN Center USA joins with PEN International in concern over the arrest of prize-winning novelist Asli Erdogan on August 19, 2016, due to her alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) three days after she and over 20 employees from the Ozgur Gundem newspaper were detained. The newspaper was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency in Turkey following the failed coup in July.

Erdogan, who served as an advisory board member and columnist at the paper, was sent to a jail in Istanbul on preliminary charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “undermining national unity.” Erdogan’s arrest comes amid heightened international concern for the rights and freedoms of writers during Turkey's state of emergency.

While recognizing the right of the Turkish authorities to enforce justice for crimes committed during the attempted coup, PEN Center USA, together with PEN International, calls on the Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression and human rights, and to respect their obligations under international law during the declared state of emergency. PEN Center USA also calls for the release of all journalists and writers held solely in connection with the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, as appears to be the case with Asli Erdogan.

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Asli Erdogan, a renowned novelist, columnist, and human rights activist in Turkey, was detained on August 17, 2016, following a police raid of her apartment. She and more than 20 other journalists and employees of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily newspaper, were arrested. The newspaper was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency following the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Two additional journalists from IMC TV, who were reporting on the raid, have also been arrested. Erdogan served as an advisory board member and columnist at the paper.

Asli Erdogan’s first novel, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man), was published in 1994 and she has since published seven books. Her short story "Wooden Birds" received first prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition. Her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades and has been published in 15 languages. In 2005, she was shortlisted by respected French literary magazine Lire as one of the “50 most promising authors of tomorrow.”

As of August 22, 2016, PEN International has documented at least 97 writers and journalists taken into custody following the coup attempt in Turkey.

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Please SIGN the petition to join PEN Center USA in calling on Turkish authorities:

  • to immediately release Asli Erdogan, who PEN believes is held solely in connection with her peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression;
  • to give all detained writers and journalists access to legal representation
  • to release detainees if they are not to be charged with a recognized criminal offense and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards;
  • and to not use the state of emergency as a means to crack down on peaceful dissent, civil society, media, and education.
The period for signing this petition is now over.