8th March 2022
PEN International joins the global community in celebrating International Women's Day (March 8) a global day marking the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and calling to action for accelerating women's equality.
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 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. Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International.
Please take action on behalf of Gulgeş Deryaspî and Meral Şimşek.
Gulgeç Akdeniz – PEN name Gulgeş Deryaspî – is a Kurdish writer from Turkey and a member of Kurdish PEN. She is the author of three novels in Kurdish; Tariya Bi Tav (Darkness with Sunshine), published in 2010, Xezal (Gazelle), published in 2013 and Ez Ne Ezim (I am not who I am), published in 2018.
Deryaspî was taken into custody on 25 July 2019 following simultaneous raids across Bitlis province, eastern Turkey, during which eight other individuals were also detained. She was formally charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 314/2 of Turkey’s Penal Code on 29 July 2019 and sent to Bitlis E Type Closed Prison. She denies any wrongdoing.
Deryaspî was released from pre-trial detention on 30 March 2020 in an effort by the Turkish authorities to stem breakouts of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails. She was sentenced to six years and three months in prison on 3 December 2020. Her lawyers lodged an appeal on 28 February 2021. One year on, a verdict on her appeal is still pending.
PEN International believes that Deryaspî is being targeted for her writings, which promote Kurdish language and culture, and calls for her conviction to be overturned.
For more information about the case of Gulgeş Deryaspî and the state of freedom of expression in Turkey – where overbroad anti-terrorism laws are used to curb peaceful expression and Kurdish culture and language continue to be harshly repressed – please click here.
Meral Şimşek is a Kurdish writer and poet from Turkey, and a member of Kurdish PEN. She is the prize-winning author of three poetry books – Mülteci Düşler (Refugee Dreams), Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran (Clouds on Fire) and İncir Karası (Black Fig).
On 9 December 2020, Şimşek was detained by the Turkish anti-terror police in Malatya province, Eastern Turkey. She was released the following day pending trial, and placed under a travel ban. In January 2021 Şimşek was charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 314/2 of Turkey’s Penal Code and ‘making terrorist propaganda’ under Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law No. 3713. The indictment notably mentions her short story Arzela, featured in the anthology Kurdistan + 100, in which twelve contemporary Kurdish writers imagine a country they could call their own by the year 2046.
On 7 October 2021, Şimşek was found guilty of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ and sentenced to one year and three months in prison by the Malatya 2nd High Criminal Court. She was acquitted of the charge of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and had her travel ban lifted. Her appeal is ongoing.
In a separate case, Şimşek faces up to five years in prison on the charge of ‘entering a restricted military area’ after she fled to Greece in June 2021 and was pushed back to Turkey.
PEN International believes that Meral Şimşek is being targeted for her writings and calls on the Turkish authorities to overturn her conviction and drop all charges against her.
Please send appeals to the Turkish authorities, calling for the conviction of Gulgeş Deryaspî and Meral Şimşek to be overturned and for all charges against Şimşek to be dropped.
Send appeals to:
Role: Minister of Justice
Address: Ministry of Justice, Adalet Bakanlığı, 06659 Ankara, Turkey
Send copies to the Embassy of Turkey in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/turkey .
Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Turkey, calling on them to raise the cases of Gulgeş Deryaspî and Meral Şimşek in bilateral fora.
Please inform PEN of any action you take and of any responses you receive.
For further information, please contact Aurélia Dondo, Europe Regional Coordinator, Aurelia.firstname.lastname@example.org, and Sabrina Tucci, Communications and Campaigns Manager, Sabrina.Tucci@pen-international.org |Twitter: @pen_int | Facebook: www.facebook.com/peninternational| www.pen-international.org
The distressing stories of women persecuted for their writings – whether through censorship, prosecution, arrests, harassment, or violence – are sadly representative of a growing and worrying trend across continents to stamp out the right to freedom of expression. We urgently need your support today in combating and eliminating the silencing of women worldwide.Donate to PEN International