PEN International released a statement on the occasion of International Women’s Day on Tuesday in solidarity with two Kurdish writers who are facing lengthy prison sentences in Turkey on charges of ‘membership of a terrorist group’ and ‘propaganda’ in separate court cases.
“In 2018 PEN International launched its Women’s Manifesto, a set of principles which aim to protect free expression by combating and eliminating the silencing of women worldwide, whether through censorship, prosecution, arrests, harassment or violence,” the statement by PEN International’s executive director Romana Cacchioli said.
“The Manifesto has been a rallying point for both PEN Centres and other organisations to progress the rights of women in education, publishing and literature. PEN International is building on the Manifesto by highlighting today, on International Women’s Day 2022, the case of two women who are persecuted because of the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and calling on its membership to take action: Gulgeş Deryaspî (Turkey) and Meral Şimşek (Turkey).”
“Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate the ongoing achievements of women writers worldwide. Yet so many women continue to be silenced, such as Kurdish writers Gulgeş Deryaspî and Meral Şimşek, each facing lengthy prison sentences in Turkey for their writings. On this important day, our thoughts are also with all women victims of war, and all those trapped in conflict situations. The PEN Community stands by them.”
About Deryaspî and Şimşek
Gulgeş Deryaspî was arrested on 25 July 2019 following house raids across Turkey’s Kurdish-majority province of Bitlis (Bedlîs). She was charged with ‘membership of a terrorist group’ and faced court on 4 February 2020. She was released on 30 March 2020 in the context of preventive measures against Covid-19. She was sentenced to six years and three months in prison on 3 December 2020. She has three published novels in Kurdish: Tariya Bi Tav (Darkness with Sunshine), published in 2010, Xezal (Gazelle), published in 2013, Ez Ne Ezim (I am not who I am), published in 2018.
Meral Şimşek, a mother of two, was arrested in Turkey’s southeastern province of Malatya on 9 December 2020 and indicted on 3 February 2021 over ‘propaganda for a terrorist group’. She was released, then during the process of the court case she was detained on 29 June 2021 by the Greek police as she was crossing the Turkish-Greek border. She was arrested again upon her return to Turkey. She has three published poetry books and one published novel.