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“They are trying to kill the truth”: A celebrated Turkish writer sends a letter from prison

Protesters demonstrate against the jailing of two journalists and an academic, outside the offices of Ozgur Gundem in Istanbul, Turkey
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
Free words.
By Thu-Huong Ha
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In the three months since the attempted military coup in Turkey, the Turkish government has closed an estimated 140 media outlets and detained more than 30,000 soldiers, police officers, lawyers, journalists, and educators.

One hundred thirty writers and journalists reportedly remain in prison, including Aslı Erdoğan, a journalist and author of seven novels, who sent a message this week from a cell she shares with 21 other women.

At the opening ceremony of the Frankfurt Book Fair on Tuesday (Oct. 18), Heinrich Riethmüller, head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, shared a translation of her missive:

I call out to you, my fellow writers, from a prison in Istanbul; a women’s prison beween a psychiatric clinic and a former leper hospital. I call out to you from behind stones, concrete and barbed wire, as if from the bottom of a well. Here, in my country, conscience is being depraved by unimaginable brutalisation. They are trying to kill the truth—it has become a habit, as if they were blind. And although I don’t know how, I know that literature has always managed to overcome dictators. The literature we write with our own blood; because for me, it is the truth. Warmest regards, Aslı Erdoğan.

Erdoğan was detained Aug. 16 for her writing in Özgür Gündem, a daily that reported on Kurdish news before it was shut down by the government. She is in prison on charges of “membership of [a] terrorist organisation” and “undermining national unity.”

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