Leading philosophers support Turkey’s writers


Butler, Negri, Morin join signers of letter in support of Turkish writers; Roberto Saviano dedicates award to Altan brothers


Support for an international letter protesting the recent detention of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and calling on end to the unjust persecution of writers in Turkey has continued to grow in the fourth day after the letter was made public.

On the fifth day of the Altan brothers’ detention, the letter has found 241 signatures from some of the world’s most well-known writers, intellectuals, academics, publishers and actors. The most recent signers include American philosopher Judith Butler, the celebrated Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Negri –viewed as the leading theoretician for the left– and the French philosophers Edgar Morin, Jean-Luc Nancy and Judith Revel.
Italian journalist and writer Roberto Saviano, who’d signed the support letter on the first day, won the prestigious M100 Sanssouci Media Award at the Sanssouci Colloquium in Potsdam, Germany on Sept. 15.

In his acceptance speech at the ceremony, where Chancellor Angela Merkel was also present, Saviano said he dedicated his award to Ahmet and Mehmet Altan.

The letter, which was opened for signing on Sept. 10 following the detention of Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, was able to collect 241 signatures within a matter of days from the world’s leading academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists and philosophers. The full text of the letter and an alphabetized list of the signers can be found below:

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.

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.

The list of signatory intellectuals here

In other news: 

As Turkey’s Purge Widens, So Does the Opposition to It

Critics say the wrong book or bank account, even reading the wrong newspaper or posting on Twitter, could lead to being fired or thrown in jail.

Can a Post-Coup Turkey Get Along with Europe?

Both sides have an obligation to try to salvage their relationship.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Turkey over press freedom, at an award ceremony of the Sanssouci Colloquium held in Germany’s Potsdam
Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish PKK, has called on the Turkish government and his supporters to resume peace talks. This was the first time he had been allowed to receive visitors since the Turkish peace process with the Kurds was broken off last year. Turkish commentators doubt that his call for peace will be heeded by the conflicting parties.

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