June 4, 2019

Turkish writer Elif Shafak speaks against Turkish censorship


Turkish writer Elif Shafak holding a copy of her book, Aşk (The Forty Rules of Love)

Turkish writers and academics are being persecuted for their work at an alarming rate, thanks to the current turmoil in the country. One writer, Elif Shafak, is speaking out against the persecution, says the Guardian‘s Sian Cain.

According to Cain, Shafak is speaking directly to the international community of her own country’s abuses: from jailing journalists and academics, to censoring many contemporary writers. Shafak warned that “all traces of democracy were being crushed [in Turkey].”

Cain cites that the Turkish Bar Association is one of the organizations in the country most actively persecuting writers. “The Turkish Bar Association, which filed one of many legal complaints against Şevki and Topçu this week, has publicly demanded that the pair be charged with child abuse and inciting criminal acts.”

Shafak herself is no stranger to this kind of harassment. For her 2006 novel The Bastards of Istanbul, she was tried and acquitted for “insulting Turkishness.” Her insult came in the form of a critique of the Turkish government, when she referred to the Armenian massacre as “genocide.”

Most recently, Shafak spoke urgently of the impending civil rights crisis in Turkey at the Hay Festival. She also spoke with the British paper, The Observer:

“In all my novels I have tried to give voice to the voiceless. I have written about outcasts, minorities, the displaced and exiled … I wanted to make their stories heard. So I really find it tragic that instead of changing the laws, building shelters for abused women and children, improving the conditions for the victims, they are attacking fiction writers. That is very sad.”



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.