In Turkey / Türkiye

Published by Platform 24, Sept 14, 2016  (updated on Sept 16, 2016)

The number of international writers and scholars supporting a letter protesting persecution of Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and other prominent writers in Turkey has reached 241 as of Sept 16.

International writers and artists are signing open letter protesting repression in Turkey

International writers and artists are signing open letter protesting repression in Turkey

“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, which the government is waging against its brightest thinkers and writers who may not share their point of view.”

An international letter condemning the Sept. 10 detention of Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, which opens with the words above, has received 217 signatures from some of the world’s most celebrated writers, academics and intellectuals.

Update: Leading philosophers support Turkey’s writers; the number of signators to international letter by writers and journalists reaches 241, published by Platform 24, Sept 16, 2016

The letter bears the signatures of three Nobel laureates in literature–JM Coetzee, Herta Müller and Orhan Pamuk. Additional signators include include Booker Prize winning author A.S. Byatt, authors Margaret Atwood, Günter Walraff, Azar Nafisi, Tom Stoppard, Neel Mukherjee; poet John Ashbery; actresses Emma Thomspon and Juliet Stevenson; owner of The Village Voice Peter Barbey,; Peter Barbey; Director of the New York Bankers Association Charles V. Waite; co-chairman of the German political party Alliance ’90/The Greens Cem Özdemir; the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah; the historian and political scientist Hamit Bozarslan; Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Christoph Deloire, and Vice President of PEN International Joanne Leedom-Ackerman.

Turkish writers Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan

Turkish writers Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan

Although the letter is primarily about expressing support for the Altan brothers, it also shows solidarity with journalists and writers Şahin Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan and Nazlı Ilıcak and calls on Turkish authorities to release all imprisoned writers in Turkey who’ve been unjustly persecuted. The full text of the letter and the names of the 217 intellectuals who have signed it so far can be found below. P24 will continue to update the list of the letter’s supporters for as long as new signatures are added.

Here is the text of the letter:

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, which 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 July 15, 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 to being imprisoned under emergency regulations. Journalists like Şahin Alpay, Nazlı Ilıcak or the novelist Aslı Erdoğan have been outspoken defenders of democracy and opponents of militarism or 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 September 10, 2016. The pair stands accused of somehow giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a television panel show broadcast July 14th, 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 or 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 September 2, 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 for supporting a coup but for 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.

Signed: (go to ‘update’ weblink above to see the list of 241 signators as of Sept 16, 2016)

Related reading:
Turkish journalists in Turkey’s state of emergency, report #18, published by Platform 24, Sept 14, 2016

These regular reports by Platform 24 contain the full, known list of the hundreds journalists in Turkey who have been arrested and detained, are still held in custody, against whom arrest warrants have been issued, and have gone into exile.

 

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