Turkish novelist Elif Şafak under investigation - the Guardian

Internationally acclaimed novelist Elif Şafak is among the fiction writers Turkish prosecutors have launched investigations into amid a debate on the country’s novelists tackling challenging subjects such as child abuse and sexual violence, the Guardian reported on Friday.

Social media users have since been sharing passages from novels by authors, such as Şafak and the novelist Ayşe Kulin, after a controversial page from a novel by Abdullah Şevki was shared on Twitter and the country’s ministry of culture and tourism said it had filed a criminal complaint against the writer, the Guardian said.

Şevki’s 2013 book “Zümrüt Apartment” features a detailed first-person account of sexual assault on a child from the eyes of a paedophile. 

A Turkish author and his publisher were detained on Wednesday and released shortly thereafter after the excerpts from the latest novel of the author shared on social media caused a public outcry.

Şafak has received thousands of abusive messages over the last two days, and that a prosecutor has asked to examine two of her novels, namely ''The Gaze,'' which was published in 1999, and 2016’s ''Three Daughters of Eve,'' it said.

“Anything that has any passage on sexual abuse of children in Turkish literature, they want to investigate it,” the Guardian quoted Şafak as saying.

“This is a very new focus for them. And of course the irony is that this is a country in which we have an escalating number of cases of sexual violence against both women and children. Turkish courts are not taking action, the laws have not been changed. So in a country where they need to take urgent action to deal with sexual violence, instead they’re prosecuting writers. It’s the biggest tragedy. It has become like a witch-hunt,” the award-winning author added.

Antonia Byatt,English PEN director,  told the Guardian that free speech organisation was “deeply concerned” about the threats to Şafak.

Şafak in 2006 was tried and acquitted for “insulting Turkishness” over a character in her novel ''The Bastard of Istanbul,'' who referred to the 1915 massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.

Şafak, while acknowledging sexual abuse appears in some of her fiction, rejected entirely the idea that this could mean she condones it.

“They don’t make a distinction … If a writer writes about these subjects –paedophilia, sexual violence, sexual harassment – those sentences are taken out of the book as if you’re defending sexual harassment,” Şafak said. “It’s just the opposite. All my life I’ve fought for women’s rights, children’s rights, minority rights, so to me this kind of accusation is so baseless. And also it means writers cannot write about these subjects any more.”

Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said on Friday, dismissed reports that authors were being targeted, stressing that it would dismiss calls on the country’s social media asking the ministry to control contents of the books, as this would mean censorship.