On 15 July 2016, a coup d'état was attempted in Turkey against state institutions. It was carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces that organised themselves as the Peace at Home Council and cited an erosion of secularism, the elimination of democratic rule, a disregard for human rights, and Turkey's loss of credibility in the international arena as reasons for the coup. They eventually were defeated by loyalist military, while the government accused them of being linked to exiled religious leader Fethullah Gülen and opponent to president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 were injured during the coup, which was followed by a massive wave of arrests, with at least 6,000 detained, including at least 2,839 soldiers and 2,745 judges. 15,000 education staff were also suspended and the licenses of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions were revoked as well as 42 journalists were arrested, after the government alleged they were loyal to Gülen.
Authors, journalists and scientists from all over the world are signing the following petition, asking the Turkish government to halt its crackdown on the press and opposition, starting from freeing prominent novelist Ahmet Altan, and his brother, writer and professor of economics Mehmet Altan:
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.
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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.
Héctor Abad, Writer.
Daron Acemoğlu, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dogan Akhanli, Writer, PEN Germany.
Meena Alexander, Poet, writer ; Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center in the PhD program in English.
Monica Ali, Writer.
Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, Knight Chair in Journalism & UNESCO Chair in Communication ; Director, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin.
Gillian Anderson, Film, television, theatre actress.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist.
Chloe Aridjis, Writer, Mexico / United Kingdom.
Ingeborg Arlt, Writer, PEN Germany.
John Ashbery, Poet.
Margaret Atwood, Writer.
Michael Augustin, Poet, translator, Germany.
Thomas Bachmann, Author.
Çiğdem Balım, Senior lecturer, Indiana University.
Etienne Balibar, Philosopher ; Professor Emeritus, University of Paris-Ouest ; Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, London.
Hans Jürgen Balmes, Editor, S. Fischer Verlage.
Russell Banks, Writer.
Peter Barbey, Publisher, The Village Voice.
Julian Barnes, Writer.
Robert Barnett, Senior Research Fellow and Director, Modern Tibetan Studies, Columbia University.
Jürgen Baurmann, Professor Emeritus, University of Wuppertal, Germany.
John Berger, Writer.
Sara Bershtel, Publisher, Metropolitan Books / Henry Holt.
Johann Bihr, Head of the Eastern Europe & Central Asia desk, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Clifford Bob, Raymond J. Kelley Endowed Chair in International Relations, Duquesne University.
Eric Bogosian, Actor, playwright, novelist and historian.
Mirko Bonné, Writer.
Vera Botterbusch, Filmmaker, photographer, writer.
Patrick Boucheron, Professor, History, Collège de France.
Olivier Bouquet, Professor, History, University of Paris VII.
Hamit Bozarslan, Professor, History, EHESS.
Warren Breckman, Rose Family Endowed Term Chair, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania.
Breyten Breytenbach, Writer, South Africa / France.
Daphné Breytenbach, Independent journalist, France.
Lisette Buchholz, Publisher, persona verlag.
A.S. Byatt (Dame Susan Duffy), Novelist, poet, Booker Prize winner.
Jamie Byng, Publisher, Canongate Books.
Simon Callow, Actor, musician, writer and theatre director.
Peter Carey, Writer.
Nick Cave, Musician, author, screenwriter.
Baltasar Cevc, Lawyer, Erlangen, Germany.
Ying Chan, Journalist, Winner of CPJ International Press Freedom Award.
Roger Chartier, Professor, History, Collège de France.
Frances Dal Chele, Photographer.
Noam Chomsky, Linguist ; Institute Professor of Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Claus Clausen, Publisher, Tiderne Skifter, Denmark.
Nathalie Clayer, Professor, History, EHESS.
Jonathan Coe, Novelist.
JM Coetzee, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Professor Dominique Custos, Centre for Research on Fundamental Rights and the Evolution of Law (CRDFED), University of Caen, France.
Burak Çopur, Political Scientist, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
Sophie Dahl, Writer.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Ariel Dorfman, Novelist, playwright ; Walter Hines Page Research Professor Emeritus of Literature, Duke University.
Costas Douzinas, Professor of Law, University of London.
Tanja Dückers, Writer.
Horst Eckert, Writer.
Scott Ellsworth, Author ; lecturer, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan.
Jean Louis Fabiani, Professor, Humanities, EHESS.
Catherine Farin, Editor, S. Fischer Verlage.
Rita Felski, Professor of literature, University of Virginia and University of Southern Denmark.
Elena Ferrante, Writer.
Sandro Ferri, Publisher, edizioni e/o, Europa editions.
Sascha Feuchert, Vice-President and Writers-in-Prison-Commissioner of PEN Germany ; Professor of Literature, University of Giessen.
Stephen Frears, Film director.
Maureen Freely, Writer ; President of English PEN.
Uwe Friesel, Writer and translator ; Member of International PEN / First President of the German Union VS.
Neil Gaiman, Writer.
Rebeca García Nieto, Writer, Spain.
Marcel Gauchet, Philosopher, EHESS ; publisher of Le Debat.
Graeme Gibson, Novelist.
Mario Giordano, Writer.
Maurice Godelier, Professor of Anthropology, EHESS, Paris.
Jordan Goodman, Honorary Research Fellow in the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at College, London .
Professor Anthony T. Grafton, Historian, Princeton University.
Roland Greene, Mark Pigott KBE Professor in the School of Humanties and Sciences, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Stanford University.
Constanze Güthenke, Associate Professor of Greek Literature, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford.
Ulla Hahn, Writer.
Matt Haig, Novelist and journalist.
Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and chair of the Freedom of Expression Institute.
David Hare, Playwright.
Josef Haslinger, President, PEN-Centers, Germany.
Chris Hedges, Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner.
Amy Hempel, Short story writer and journalist.
Wolfgang Hermann, Author, Austria.
Uwe-Karsten Heye, Writer.
Jim Hicks, Executive Editor of the Massachusetts Review ; Professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Kathy High, Interdisciplinary artist, curator, scholar.
Adam Hochschild, Journalist, historian.
James Hollings, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Massey University Wellington, New Zealand.
Nick Hornby, Writer.
Violaine Huisman, Director of Humanities, Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Mark Lee Hunter, Investigative journalist, Paris.
Zehra İpşiroğlu, Author ; Professor of Theatre Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen.
Ayesha Jalal, Mary Richardson Professor of History ; Director, Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University.
Gabriela Jaskulla, Writer and journalist.
Amy Edith Johnson, Columbia University.
Joachim Kalka, Writer and translator.
Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression At Risk Programs, PEN America.
A.L. Kennedy, Writer.
Tanja Kinkel, Writer.
Hubert Klöpfer, Publisher and member of PEN Germany.
Laurens van Krevelen, Writer and publisher, The Netherlands.
Barbara Krohn, Writer.
Hari Kunzru, Novelist and journalist.
Hanif Kureishi, Writer.
Olivia Laing, Writer and critic.
Jean-Manuel Larralde, Professor of Public Law, University of Caen, Normandy.
Camille Laurens, Writer.
Marie Lecomte-Tilouine, Director of research at CNRS, France.
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Vice President of PEN International.
Jo Lendle, Publisher, Carl Hanser Verlage.
Wolf Lepenies, Professor, Sociology, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin; Freie Universität.
Mark Lilla, Writer, Professor of Humanities, Columbia University.
Antoine Lilti, Professor, History, EHESS.
Professor Christoph Lindenmeyer, Author and journalist ; member of PEN-Center Germany.
Clementina Liuzzi, Literary agent.
Gert Loschütz, Writer.
Gila Lustiger, Writer, Germany / France.
Jonas Lüscher, Writer ; member of PEN-Center Germany.
Lindsay Mackie, Board member of English PEN and chair of its Readers and Writers Programme.
Alberto Manguel, Writer, Director of the National Library of Argentina.
Anthony Marx, President and CEO of The New York Public Library ; former president of Amherst College.
Frédérique Longuet Marx, Maître de conférences en sociologie à l'Université de Caen.
Hisham Matar, Writer.
Claudia Mattalucci, Professor, Anthropology, University of Milan-Bicocca.
Tom McCarthy, National affairs correspondent, The Guardian.
Ian McEwan, Novelist and screenwriter.
Jay McInerney, Novelist.
Maureen N. McLane, Professor of English, Director of Honors, New York University.
Norbert Mecklenburg, Professor of Literature, University of Cologne.
Allan Megill, Professor of History, University of Virginia.
Maria Meinel, Translator.
Laurent Mignon, Associate Professor of Turkish ; Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford.
Rick Moody, Writer.
Luiza Franco Moreira, Poet ; Professor and Chair, Department of Comparative Literaure at Binghampton University.
Paul W. Morris, Director of Literary Programs at PEN American Center.
Dirk Moses, Professsor, History, University of Sydney.
Glenn W. Most, Professor of Classics, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa ; The University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought.
Madhusree Mukerjee, Writer.
Neel Mukherjee, Writer.
Enrique Murillo, Editor, Los libros del lince.
Herta Müller, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Sten Nadolny, Novelist.
Azar Nafisi, Writer.
Ralf Nestmeyer, Author, historian.
Mary Ann Newman, Translator.
Steve Newman, Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English, Temple University.
Thandie Newton, Actress.
Dr. Bui Hanh Nghi, Author.
Dr. Wulf Noll, Writer.
Olivier Nora, Publisher, Editions Grasset.
Françoise Nyssen, Publisher, Actes Sud.
Andrew O’Hagan, Novelist.
Hans-Christian Oeser, Literary Translator, Member of PEN.
Osman Okkan, Turkish-German Forum of Culture.
Michael Ondaatje, Novelist and poet.
Sandra Ozzola, Publisher, edizioni e/o, Europa editions.
Erol Önderoğlu, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Turkey.
Cem Özdemir, Chairman and Member of Parliament, Alliance 90/ The Greens, Germany.
Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Christian Parenti, Author, investigative journalist.
Tim Parks, Writer.
Philip N. Pettit, Historian, Philosopher, Princeton University; Australian National University.
DBC Pierre, Writer.
Angela Pimenta, Columnist and president of Projor (The Institute for Development of Journalism), São Paulo.
Philip Pullman, Writer.
Justin Quinn, Writer, translator ; Associate Professor, University of West Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Eduardo Rabasa, Writer.
Marie-Joëlle Redor-Fichot, Professor of Public Law, University of Caen, Normandy.
Daniel Rondeau, Writer; former ambassador.
Professor Michael Rothberg, 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies, UCLA.
Frederick J. Ruf, Professor, Department of Theology, Georgetown University.
Alan Rusbridger, Journalist, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and the former editor-in-chief of The Guardian.
Salman Rushdie, Writer ; Winned of the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Booker of Bookers prize.
P. Sainath, Author, journalist.
Professor Philippe Sands QC, University College London and Matrix Chambers.
Gisèle Sapiro, Professor of Sociology at the EHESS and Research Director at the CNRS, Vice-President of the EHESS for International Relations.
Aram Saroyan, Poet and novelist.
Roberto Saviano, Journalist, writer.
Rafik Schami, Syrian-German writer.
Anya Schiffrin, Director (IMAC) at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
Prof Dr. Wilfried F. Schoeller, Author, literary critic, professor of 20th Century Literatute, Literary Criticism Media, University.
Eugene Schoulgin, Vice President, PEN International.
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Writer.
Professor Salvatore Settis, Art Historian, President of Louvre Museum’s Scientific Board ; Former President of Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.
Elif Shafak, Writer.
Jayeeta Sharma, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto.
Peter Sillem, Editorial Director, S. Fischer Verlag.
Shelly Silver, Associate Professor, Visual Arts Program, Columbia University.
Dan Simon, Founder and publisher, Seven Stories Press.
Laura M. Slatkin, Professor, Classical Studies, New York University.
Ali Smith, Writer.
Marie-Carmen Smyrnelis, Historian, EHESS.
Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review.
Juliet Stevenson, Stage and screen actress.
Klaus Stiller, Writer.
Tom Stoppard, Playwright and screenwriter.
Ulrich Straeter, Writer and publisher.
Leander Sukov, Author, Germany.
Johann P. Tammen, Poet and editor, Member of PEN.
Adam Thirlwell, Writer.
Emma Thompson, Actress, comedian, writer.
Uwe Timm, Writer, Germany.
Ilija Trojanow, Writer, translator, publisher.
Özgür Türesay, Senior Lecturer, Applied School of Advanced Studies, 4th Section, Section of historical and philological sciences.’’
Anja Utler, Writer, Germany.
Regula Venske, General Secretary, PEN Germany.
Charles V Wait, President, CEO and chairman of the board of The Adirondack Trust Company, Saratoga Springs, New York ; Director of the New York Bankers Association.
Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University.
Günter Wallraff, Writer.
Irvine Welsh, Novelist and playwright.
Herbert Wiesner, Literary Critic, Member of German PEN Centre, Berlin.
Michel Wieviorka, Professor of Sociology, EHESS.
Dr. Thomas Wohlfahr, Director of Literature Workshop, House for Poetry, Berlin.
Felicia Zeller, Writer.
Cartoon by Enrico Bertuccioli/CartoonMovement