Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan awarded Simone de Beauvoir Prize for human rights

Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan, who was jailed for four months in 2016 on charges of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation, was awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for human rights and women’s freedom in a ceremony held in Paris on Wednesday.

Named after the French author, philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir, who lived between 1908 and 1986, the prize has been awarded to a gender equality advocate or organisation since 2008.

Former winners include Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, Iranian women's rights organisation One Million Signatures, and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

Alice Schwarzer, the editor-in-chief of German feminist magazine Emma, nominated Erdoğan in December. Schwarzer is also prize jury.

In her acceptance speech, Aslı Erdoğan mentioned another Turkish author, journalist Ahmet Altan who is in jail since September 2016 for "giving subliminal messages about the coup." Altan became an example of the state of justice in Turkey, with the prosecutors asking for aggravated life sentence for his alleged crime.

Aslı Erdoğan said:

I dedicate my prize to all the women who have been silenced, prosecuted, humiliated, violated, and imprisoned; to the women in the Ward C-9 of the Bakırköy Prison, and to the little plant we grew over there, which was taken away in every opportunity, but was kept alive someway.

One of the Kurdish women there pleaded guilty to the charges against her, because they tortured her baby in front of her. That baby is now a young men, his name is Azad, means freedom in Kurdish. Another one was a nurse, and her only crime was reporting a tortured patient to a doctor.

From these women, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve learned from them to stay alive.

Erdoğan, who is no relation to Turkey’s president, was banned from leaving the Turkey as part of her bail conditions. After the travel ban was lifted, she travelled in September last year to receive Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize in Osnabrück, Germany, and did not return to Turkey.

At the ceremony in Germany, Erdoğan said Turkey’s justice system is completely in ruins, and she would therefore wait for the court’s decision abroad.

“We should never give up being the voice of the oppressed,” Erdoğan said, reflecting that her own experience in Turkey had made her consider suicide.

Erdoğan was previously awarded the Theodor Heuss Medal, the Princess Margriet Culture Prize by the European Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam, the Stuttgart Peace Prize and the Bruno Kreisky Human Rights Prize of Austria in 2016 for her “struggle for the freedom of thought”.

She was also granted the Vincenzo Padula Award for international fiction for her literary works in December 2017.