Press release of July 20th, 2022
Turkey: Persecuted author Meral Şimşek
PEN Berlin is happy to welcome Turkish-Kurdish writer and poet Meral Şimşek to Germany. We would like to thank all the people and institutions who have assisted in this outcome, in particular Nancy Faeser and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Klaus Lederer and the Berlin Senate Department for Culture, the Literary Colloquium Berlin, the Literaturhaus Berlin, the Maxim-Gorki-Theatre Berlin and all others who have provided advice and assistance.
Meral Şimşek was sentenced to fifteen months in prison in October 2021 for alleged “propaganda for a terrorist organization”. The verdict was based on her poems as well as her international literary awards, evaluated as incriminating evidence. Although she was acquitted of the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” in the first instance, the public prosecutor’s office continues to demand fifteen years in prison in the appeal proceedings.
In her attempt to cross the land border into Greece, she was forced back to Turkey last year by Greek security forces in an unlawful “push back”. In Turkey, she spent a week in detention. On both sides of the border she was beaten by security forces and treated in a humiliating manner. Because of the escape attempt, another trial was opened, in which she faces five years in prison for “illegally entering a military restricted area”.
Meral Şimşek is 40 years old and a member of the Kurdish PEN Center. Of lately she lived in Diyarbakır. She made her first experiences with police violence at the age of thirteen. Recently, her novel Nar Lekesi (“Pomegranate Spot”) was published, exploring her family history in literary terms. She deals with the oppressive Kurdish policy of the Turkish state just as harshly as with executions within the PKK.
“Even though public attention for Turkey has waned in this country, the following still applies: the Erdoğan regime does not like free speech, especially when it comes to Kurdish authors such as Meral Şimşek, or Kurdish issues,” said Ronya Othmann, board member of PEN Berlin. “If you try to tell reality in a literary way, you run the risk of being wiped out,” said Meral Şimşek. “Now I am in a new country. I think I can write about my reality freely here and look to the future full of hope.”
We stand by our word.