Norwegian PEN is pleased to announce the adoption of prize-winning writer, columnist, and human rights activist Aslı Erdoğan as our newest honorary member. In the wake of Erdoğan’s recent arrest in Turkey, Norwegian PEN wishes to honor her for over a decade of tireless contributions to the fields of literature and activism.
Originally obtaining an MSc at Boğaziçi University, Erdoğan worked as a particle physicist at CERN in Geneva before beginning a fruitful and prolific writing career. The publication of Erdoğan’s first novel in 1994, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man) quickly established her literary presence, and subsequent works such as The City in Crimson Cloak, Miraculous Mandarin, and Wooden Birds have led to numerous prizes and accolades both in Turkey and abroad. Erdoğan’s works have been translated into more than fifteen languages, and her most recent novel, The Stone Building, received Turkey’s most prestigious literary award (Sait Faik) in 2010.
As a writer of fiction, Erdoğan is a model of versatility, and her body of work includes poetry, poetic prose, several novellas and short stories, and seven novels. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is Erdoğan’s prolific career as a journalist and columnist, and her dedication as an activist; publishing over 200 articles and championing causes for feminism, ethnic equality, non-discrimination, and free expression, Aslı Erdoğan’s most recent and controversial contributions stem from her position as a columnist, symbolic editor, and advisory board member of the pro-Kurdish opposition daily, Özgür Gündem.
In the aftermath of the failed military coup on 15 July in Turkey, a court order forced the closure of Özgür Gündem, and following a police raid on 16 August, Aslı Erdoğan was taken into custody alongside twenty other journalists and employees. Erdoğan was arrested on 17 August and has since been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” and of “undermining national unity”.
An international outcry has been raised in protest of the prison conditions under which Aslı Erdoğan is being held. Erdoğan suffers from asthma, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and in her detention she has been denied essential medication, medical attention, and at times, even fresh air and water. Recent objections to her arrest have been overruled by Istanbul’s courts, and Erdoğan continues to await trial in prison amid deplorable conditions.
The effects of the failed coup in July, and the ensuing state of emergency declared by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have resulted in the increased suppression of freedom of expression in Turkey, adding fuel to the fire in an environment that was already hostile to political dissent. Aslı Erdoğan, like many of her colleagues, continues to be persecuted in her fight for free expression.
Through years of lost jobs, smear campaigns, and political and social exile, Aslı Erdoğan has remained unflinching in her convictions and defense of human rights. A long-time friend, supporter, and member of PEN, Erdoğan served as the Turkish representative of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee from 1998 to 2000, as well as being an ICORN writer-in-residence in Krakow, Poland. In 2005, the French literary magazine, Lire, shortlisted Erdoğan as one of “50 most promising authors of tomorrow”. Norwegian PEN is proud to adopt Aslı Erdoğan as an honorary member, as we continue to hope for her release and the cessation of Turkey’s assault on free speech.