Bestselling novelist Elif Shafak is merely the latest victim of the trial-happy Turks, who, over the last year, have charged over five dozen writers and journalists under Turkey’s Article 301, the vague legislation that seems to target outspoken creative types like university professors, journalists, and novelists “Charged under legislation drawn so broadly as to criminalise a wide range of critical opinions, writers not only face the prospect of a three-year jail term, but the prosecutions also lay them open to a campaign of intimidation and harassment waged by rightwing agitators,” explained a Guardian story today.
These campaigns include “crowds of protesters slapping and jostling defendants both inside and outside the courtroom, shouting and throwing coins and pens” and is something that Shafak could very well have to deal with in the coming months.
In June, Shafak’s bestselling The Bastard of Istanbul riled up a nationalist lawyer, who put in a “complaint in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district court against Shafak, and her publisher, Semi Sokmen, and her translator, Asli Bican … Shafak and her publisher argued during interrogation that the book was a work of literature and that comments made by fictional characters could not be used to press charges against an author,” according to the story. The judge let her off the hook.
But, as it turns out, “earlier this month the same lawyer took the case to a higher court, and ultimately managed to have the decision overturned. She is now confronted with a long and daunting legal process. A trial, with all the unwelcome attention from rightwing groups which that entails, is now inevitable.” To make matters much worse, she is six-months pregnant.
Shafak says the critical tone of her novel got her into hot water, in addition to the fact that she has been “active and outspoken on various ‘taboo’ issues, critical of ultranationalism and all sorts of rigid ideologies, including those coming from the Kemalist elite, and I have maintained a public presence on minority rights, especially on the Armenian question. It is a whole package.”
Her trial date has yet to be set.
Read the Guardian story here