Fiction On Trial

Last year, when the Turkish government’s case against novelist Orhan Pamuk was thrown out of court on a technicality, many had hoped that Article 301–the law that makes it illegal to “insult Turkishness,” whatever that means–would also be purged from the penal code. It has not.

Now it is the turn of novelist Elif Shafak to go on trial for something she has written, and which has irked the establishment. What makes her case even more remarkable is that, this time, the supposed “insult to Turkishness” comes from a fictional character in one of her novels, Father and Bastard (English title: The Bastard of Istanbul.) The character speaks about the (otherwise well-documented) genocide of Armenians by Turks in 1915, and apparently it is illegal to imagine such a scene in a novel. Shafak’s trial opens today in Istanbul. It also bears mention that the writer was pregnant during all these stressful weeks; she delivered just five days ago, and now she must attend the trial against her.

Shafak is only one among many (eighteen, to be precise) writers and journalists who are being harrassed via Article 301. You can read more about the cases here.