PEN USA and PEN International announce that acclaimed writer Asli Erdogan is facing a lengthy prison sentence with a verdict due on Friday, February 14th, 2020.
Please publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Asli Erdogan and freedom of expression in Turkey.
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Statement from PEN INTERNATIONAL: "Proceedings against Aslı Erdogan have been dragging on for three and a half years. She has been forced to spend 132 days behind bars and has had to suffer a travel ban for months—and all that because she has expressed her views peacefully. This is a blatantly politically motivated prosecution, which has tormented Asli Erdogan and countless independent voices in Turkey. With a verdict looming, the PEN community continues to stand firmly in solidarity with Aslı Erdogan and emphatically and forcefully calls for all charges against her to be dropped."—Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International's Writer in Prison Committee
Statement from PEN USA: "The charges against Aslı Erdoğan are baseless, and the threat of a lengthy sentence after such a drawn-out, unfair trial on such flimsy grounds is devastating," said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. "The incarceration and ongoing legal harassment against writers, journalists, and creative artists in Turkey is an appalling assault on free expression that undermines Turkey's democratic traditions. We urge Turkish authorities to drop all charges against Erdoğan and all other writers and journalists–they must be free to speak out against the injustices in their country."
Statement from Elaine Katzenberger, Publisher and Executive Director, City Lights Books: "Asli Erdogan's life-threatening situation is emblematic of the human rights crisis that has transformed civic life in Turkey. Carrying out an unrelenting "purge," since 2016, the government has persecuted and imprisoned hundreds of journalists, artists, writers, academics and civic workers on baseless charges, often calling for life sentences. As Asli has said, "The government has crossed all barriers of ethics, and even shame." Asli currently lives in what will probably become permanent exile from her home, friends and family, but even abroad she is not free from death threats, harassment, and ongoing State torment. She has suffered a series of debilitating physical consequences as a result of the Turkish government's ongoing psychological torture, and this sudden push to sentence her in absentia is meant to further threaten those who would speak out. Please add your voice to the international protest against Turkey's treatment of Asli Erdogan, and of all who attempt to speak truth to power."
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Vivid stories from one of Turkey's most admired contemporary female authors, whose political activism has made her the target of state persecution.
"Aslı Erdoğan is an exceptionally perceptive and sensitive writer who always produces perfect literary texts."—Orhan Pamuk, author of The Red-Haired Woman
"Now, as her fame grows, her books have been selling more, and her [Turkish] publisher has issued new printings. One volume of short stories, The Stone Building and Other Places, has become a best seller in Turkey."––The New York Times
"Beautifully written and honestly told, as tender as the tulip gardens of Istanbul and as brave as the human heart."—Elif Safak, author of The Forty Rules of Love
Three interconnected stories feature women whose lives have been interrupted by forces beyond their control. Exile, serious illness, or the imprisonment of one's beloved are each met with versions of strength and daring, while there is no undoing what fate has wrought. These atmospheric, introspective tales culminate in an experimental, multi-voiced novella, whose "stone building" is a metaphor for the various oppressive institutions—prisons, police HQs, hospitals and psychiatric asylums—that dominate the lives of all of these characters. Here is a literary distillation of the alienation, helplessness, and controlled fury of exile and incarceration—both physical and mental—presented in a series of moving, allegorical portraits of lives ensnared by the structures of power.
Aslı Erdoğan (Istanbul, 1967) is a renowned, prize-winning author, journalist, and human rights activist whose fiction has been translated into many languages. She has published novels, collections of short stories and poetic prose, and selections from her political essays. As a journalist, she has covered controversial topics such as state violence, discrimination, and human rights, for which she has been persecuted in a variety of ways.
Erdogan was imprisoned for four months by the Turkish government in a sweeping roundup of dissident voices after the failed coup attempt of July 2016. The subject of both PEN International and PEN America advocacy campaigns, she was released from prison in late December 2016.
This is her second work to be translated into English.
Praise for The Stone Building and Other Places:
"The Stone Building by Aslı Erdoğan appears at first glance to be a collection of three short stories and a novella. In fact it is a literary text with a single unifying and sad theme: confinement. Erdoğan is a most original and courageous literary voice, and The Stone Building bears on what is going on in present day Turkey."—Daniel Beaumont, author of Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Music of Son House
"It is very difficult, and often impossible, to bring the music of Turkish into English. It is all the more difficult when the author-under-translation writes subtle and sinuous prose that stretches the conventions of literary Turkish to its limits. So, what a pleasure it is to see Sevinc Turkkan achieving the almost impossible. Not only does she do justice to Asli Erdogan's prose. She makes it sing."—Maureen Freely, translator