Top PEN prize honors jailed Turkish rights activist
Ayşe Berktay was arrested on Sept. 14, 2011. Hürriyet photo
PEN American Center announced today that they had honored Ayşe Berktay, a translator, writer and human rights activist who is currently under arrest, with the 2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
Berktay was arrested on Sept. 14, 2011 for "membership of an illegal organization," within the scope of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) trials.
In honoring Berktay, PEN stressed that she could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, and also mentioned that the estimated number of writers currently in prison or on trial in Turkey was 130.
Prosecution of writers and journalists a 'disturbing trend'
"Ayşe Berktay is a brave, clear, passionate voice for women’s rights and cultural rights in Turkey, and she absolutely should not be in prison,” PEN American Center President Peter Godwin said.
Godwin describes today's Turkey as a country that, "despite so much progress in so many areas, is now prosecuting scores of writers and journalists, most of them on specious terrorism charges."
Turkey may begin to reverse this "disturbing trend" by immediately releasing Berktay, he added.
The Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award honors international writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression.
The award will be presented at PEN’s Annual Gala on April 30, 2013.