Author Elif Shafak, also tried for “insulting Turkishness” following the publication of her novel The Bastard of Istanbul, is one of the authors to sign the letter.
“Turkey’s rulers need to understand democracy is not solely about getting a majority of votes in the ballot box,” said Shafak, whose trial went on for a year before charges were dropped. “Far beyond that, democracy is a culture of inclusiveness, openness, human rights and freedom of speech, for each and every one, regardless of whichever party they voted for. It is the realization of the very core of democracy that has been sorely lacking in Turkey today.”
The letter comes in the wake of a new report from PEN International and English PEN on the Gezi Park protests last year, and their impact on freedom of expression.
“The excessive use of police force, as well as widespread media censorship and reprisals against journalists and users of social media, starkly illustrated the shortcomings of Turkish democracy in its lack of pluralism and disregard for fundamental rights and freedoms,” the report says.
It lists the “human rights violations” that took place during the protests and calls on the Turkish government to, among other things, ensure freedom of expression is respected and peaceful protestors are not detained.
PEN International and English PEN also wants the right to peaceful assembly included in Turkey’s proposed new constitution.