Turkey unleashes crackdown on creative writers dealing with social issues

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Writers in Turkey are in for a new crackdown by the authorities this summer, it has been reported.

In what is being described as a bid to curtail free speech as well as creativity, prosecutors have launched probes against renowned writers like Elif Shafak, Abdullah Şevki, and Ayşe Kulin, who have been tackling challenging subjects.

In order to grapple with and expose the social ills of the current age these writers out of their firm conviction and commitment to upholding the rights of children and women have taken up subjects like sexual abuse, pedophilia, and underage in their work.

Although they have been critically acclaimed and these works have been in print for some time, the sudden scrutiny by the authorities has been accompanied by attacks on social media, accompanied by accusations that these writers are actually condoning the practice of child abuse and violence.

The move against writers follows a certain pattern. Take the case of Abdullah Şevki. The Turkish ministry of culture and tourism filed a criminal complaint against Sevki after a page from one of his novels was shared on Twitter recently.

Turkey’s bar association also filed a complaint calling on the government to ban the book and charge its author and publisher with “child abuse and inciting criminal acts”.

Both Şevki and his publisher were subsequently detained.

Now the sharing of passages from novels on social media by other writers is continuing, including that of Shafak and Kulin, along with accusations similar to the one Seki is facing.

In two days, Shafak had received thousands of abusive messages and a prosecutor wants to examine her novels, among them one published in 1999 and the other in 2016.

Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “Anything that has any passage on sexual abuse of children in Turkish literature, they want to investigate it.”

She said the courts are failing to take action on the increase in cases “of sexual violence against both women and children.”

Instead, she said the focus is on prosecuting writers. “It’s the biggest tragedy. It has become like a witch-hunt.”

Shafak said: “We need a strong women’s movement and gender awareness,” she said.

“Literature can take an important part in this conversation. But now they are attacking writers.”

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