Elif Shafak–a highly respected and best-selling author–is facing trial on charges of "insulting Turkishness" under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code.
Her publisher–Semi Skmen of the Metis Publishing House–and translator Asli Bican are also facing charges. They are accused in connection with Shafaks book–The Bastard of Istanbul. International PEN considers that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code falls foul of international standards that protect the right to freedom of expression and to which Turkey is a signatory. It urges that the court hearing the case takes this breach into consideration and reconsiders its decision to proceed with the case.
One month ago–on June 7–the Beyoglu Public Prosecutor in Istanbul dismissed proceedings launched against Shafak after hearing Shafak and Skmen’s argument that the book was a work of literature and it was therefore not appropriate for prosecution.
They added that the book aimed to promote the culture of peace. However–in early July the Istanbul 7th High Criminal Court over-ruled the decision not to proceed–following a complaint filed by Kemal Kerincsiz–a member of a group of right wing lawyers known as the "Unity of Jurists" who have been active in the launching of prosecutions of numerous writers and journalists in recent months. The trial date has not yet been set.
Shafaks book tells the story of two families one based in Istanbul–the other an exiled Armenian family living in San Francisco – who share a family secret dating from the early 19th century that continues to effect the lives of their daughters in the present. Originally written in English–the book was published by the Metis Publishing House in March 2006 and has since become a best seller. It is due to be published in English by Viking/Penguin.
Elif Shafak was born in France and spent her childhood in Spain. After studying political science in Turkey–she held teaching positions in the United Kingdom–Turkey–and the United States. She is now Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Near Eastern Studies at University of Arizona. Her publications include both novels and essays–among them The Saint of Incipient Insanities–which was her first book published in English–Bit Palas–Mahrem–which won the Turkish Writers’ Association Best Novel of the Year Award.