Crackdown against opposition rekindles Turkey’s prison literature - Washington Post

Many dissidents in Turkey, who found themselves in jail, have rekindled the country’s long tradition of literature written in prison, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Many opposition figures in prison, including journalist and author Ahmet Altan and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, have led a sullen publishing boom, with at least eight books penned by current or former inmates published in the last two years alone, the Washington Post said.

A Turkish criminal court in February 2018 sentenced Altan, with several other journalists, to life in prison without parole over charges of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government. Altan was accused of being a member of the media wing of Gülen movement, a religious group, blamed for a failed coup attempt in 2016. In prison, Altan penned a jailhouse diary published with the title “I Will Never See the World Again”.

Demirtaş, former co-chair of the dominantly-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is one of eight HDP lawmakers currently behind bars in Turkey on terrorism-related charges. He wrote a book of short stories that sold more than 200,000 copies in Turkey and is being published by the actor Sarah Jessica Parker’s new literary imprint in the United States.   

“Running alongside Turkey’s grand tradition of writing resistance is a grand tradition of reading it,” the Washington Post quote Maureen Freely, a writer and translator who wrote the introduction to the English-language edition of Demirtaş’s “Dawn.” 

At least six recent books were written by jailed members of a mainstream pro-Kurdish political party, the Washington Post said. In her book, Gültan Kışanak, a former co-chair of the party serving a 14-year sentence, interviewed other inmates by sending questions to their lawyers. 

Over the decades, Turkey’s prison authors have been women and men, communists, leftists, Islamists and Kurds, the Washington Post said.

Other names that have contributed to the prison literature include renowned poet Nazım Hikmet, author Sevgi Soysal, and Islamist thinker Necip Fazıl. In 1982, a jury at the Cannes Film Festival awarded its top honour to filmmaker Yılmaz Güney for a film he had directed from jail, the newspaper said.