PEN Prize to Honor Jailed Turkish Translator Ayşe Berktay

May 21, 2013

(Ayşe Berktay in Bakırköy Women’s Prison – Photo courtesy Ali Berktay)

On 15 April 2013 PEN American Center  named Ayşe Berktay, a translator, writer, and activist in Turkey, as the recipient of its 2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Berktay, a leading advocate for peace, women’s rights, and Kurdish rights in Turkey, was arrested on October 3, 2011, and is currently being tried for “membership in an illegal organization” for her pro-Kurdish cultural advocacy. One of at least 130 writers currently in prison or on trial in Turkey, many on false terrorism-related charges, she could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.The award was presented at PEN’s Annual Gala on April 30, 2013, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “Ayşe Berktay is a brave, clear, passionate voice for women’s rights and cultural rights in Turkey, and she absolutely should not be in prison,” said PEN American Center President Peter Godwin. “As a translator and as a peaceful activist, her life has been shaped by the desire to bridge cultures and convey truths that challenge official orthodoxies and histories. That this could be somehow labeled terrorism reveals a great deal about Turkey today—a country that, despite so much progress in so many areas, is now prosecuting scores of writers and journalists, most of them on specious terrorism charges. This award, which honors Ayşe Berktay’s courage, signals PEN’s determination to reverse this disturbing trend. The Turkish government can begin by arranging her immediate release.”

Flag of Turkey.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… In November 2012, a PEN International delegation visited Ankara to express concern about the alarming rise in prosecutions of writers and journalists in the last two years, noting that more than 70 writers and journalists are currently in prison, and at least 60 other writers, publishers, and journalists are on trial—ensnared in legal processes that can last years. While government officials, including Turkish President Abdullah Gül, acknowledged that the spike in trials of writers is casting a shadow over more positive trends in democratization and economic development in Turkey, prosecutions continue and new cases are being opened all the time—including one against seven Board Members and the webmaster of PEN Turkey, who could face charges under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which prohibits insults to the Turkish Republic, Turkish ethnicity, and Turkish governmental institutions.

In a November 2012 letter sent from Bakırköy Women’s Prison, where she is being held, Berktay writes: “Growing up, I learned that it is a virtue to oppose injustice, inequality and unfairness. I was taught to read, research, to question, and never stop learning. I’ve never lost hope on our belief that our conflicts can be resolved through democratic means and not with violence. We have something to say about peace, and the power to make it a reality. We still do.”

via Top PEN Prize to Honor Jailed Turkish Translator Ayşe Berktay | PEN American Center.

One Response to “PEN Prize to Honor Jailed Turkish Translator Ayşe Berktay”


  1. […] PEN Prize to Honor Jailed Turkish Translator Ayşe Berktay […]


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