According to The Guardian Turkish prosecutors have begun investigations into numerous writers of fiction, including famed author Elif Shafak. The campaign has been described as a serious violation of free speech rights, all breaking off from recent, rather vicious debates on social media about authors who write about difficult topics, such as child abuse and sexual violence. After a page from a new novel Abdullah Sevki was shared on Twitter, the novel quickly generated deep controversy when the chapter showcased featured a first person account of a child being sexual assaulted from a sexual predator’s POV. The government of Turkey has issued a formal complaint to ban the book and has charged Abdullah Sevki with criminal acts such as potential child abuse.
Elif Shafak has described the campaign as a serious attack on free speech, having received thousands of abusive messages about her work published in the last few years, which deals with similar themes. She said her work is intended to put a spotlight on sexual violence in Turkey, especially against children, as Turkish courts have dragged their feet actually investigating reported incidents. She notes that instead of going after real life rapists, the Turkish courts are attacking writers instead, using them as a scapegoat without having to actually investigate the true problem.
Numerous speech organizations are deeply concerned about this campaign against Turkish novelists and have been quoted as saying:
“Freedom of expression in Turkey is increasingly under serious threat. Too many writers are in prison whilst others have been forced into exile.”
Shafak was previously tried for her novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, where she referred to the massacre of Armenians in World War I as a war crime and genocide. Shafak acknowledged that she deals with difficult subjects, such as sexual violence, but does not condone it and does the exact opposite with her work. She further notes she has always been a campaigner for women, children, and minority rights.
The campaign into investigating Shafak and other authors like her is sparking an international debate, both over free speech rights and content allowed in novels. What are your thoughts on this complicated issue? This could be easily be a slippery slope to go down for Turkey as a whole.
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