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Turkish prosecutors put novelists under investigation

Turkish prosecutors have launched investigations into the country’s fiction writers, including award-winning novelist Elif Shafak, reports the Guardian, with Shafak calling on the international community to support Turkish authors, journalists and academics.

The investigations were launched after debates on social media in which authors were accused of condoning practices they wrote about in their fiction, such as child abuse and sexual violence.

Writer Abdullah Şevki has been detained, along with his publisher Alaattin Topçu, over a scene in one of his novels that describes the sexual assault of a child from the perspective of a pedophile. Turkish prosecutors have demanded that both Şevki and Topçu be charged with ‘child abuse and inciting criminal acts’, and have called on the government to ban the book.

Other writers including Shafak and novelist Ayşe Kulin have faced similar accusations, with Shafak revealing that a prosecutor has asked to examine her novels The Gaze, published in 1999, and Three Daughters of Eve, published in 2016.

Shafak said: ‘The irony is that this is a country in which we have an escalating number of cases of sexual violence against both women and children. Turkish courts are not taking action, the laws have not been changed. So in a country where they need to take urgent action to deal with sexual violence, instead they’re prosecuting writers. It’s the biggest tragedy. It has become like a witch-hunt.’

Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe, with an estimated 15% of girls married before the age of 18.

English PEN director Antonia Byatt said the organisation was ‘deeply concerned’ about the threats to Shafak. ‘Freedom of expression in Turkey is increasingly under serious threat. Too many writers are in prison whilst others have been forced into exile.’

 

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