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World writers join PEN in solidarity with Turkey's imprisoned writers, as high-level mission ends

A Turkish soldier stands guard outside the Silivri Prison and Courthouse complex in Istanbul, 27 December 2016. A PEN delegation held a vigil outside the prison on 26 January 2017
A Turkish soldier stands guard outside the Silivri Prison and Courthouse complex in Istanbul, 27 December 2016. A PEN delegation held a vigil outside the prison on 26 January 2017

REUTERS/Osman Orsal

This statement was originally published on on 27 January 2017.

As a high-level PEN International mission ends in Istanbul, Turkey, leading world writers join PEN in a message of solidarity to fellow writers protesting the heavy-handed crackdown against free expression in the country.

There are now close to 150 writers and journalist in prison in Turkey, making it the biggest jailer of journalists in the world, surpassing China, Eritrea and Egypt. Nobel laureates Elfriede Jelinek, J.M Coetzee and Mario Vargas Llosa join writers Elif Shafak, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Ian Rankin, Jonathan Franzen, John Ashbery, Elena Poniatowska, Tariq Ali, Yann Martel, poet Adonis, artist Ai Weiwei, investigative journalists Lydia Cacho and Khadija Ismayilova as well as over 20 PEN Centres presidents in solidarity with Turkey's writers.

Since the failed coup on 15 July 2016, Turkish authorities have cracked down on writers, journalists, media organisations, publishing houses, the judiciary and political opponents, resulting in a near total silencing of critical voices.

In PEN's message of solidarity, the writers say:

"We are writing to you to let you know that you are not alone. We are writing to tell you that we will not stand idly by in your time of need. We will not be silent while your human rights are violated. We will raise our global voice against any effort to silence yours."

The message of solidarity was published today as PEN International's high-level mission to assess the situation for freedom of expression in Turkey ends. The mission was led by PEN International president Jennifer Clement, Chairman of the Nobel Prize for Literature Per Wästberg, President Emeritus John Ralston Saul; Vice-President Eugene Schoulgin , Turkish writers Burhan Sönmez and Zülfü Livaneli; German writer Peter Schneider; publishers Eva Bonnier and Ronald Bluden; and PEN Centre presidents Iman Humaydun, William Nygaard, Vida Ognjenović and Urtzi Urrutikoetxea.

In their week-long visit, the high-level mission met with writers, journalists, human rights defenders, civils society actors, as well as Minister of Culture Nabi Avcı, party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and MPs and political figures from across Turkey's political landscape. The delegation also visited the offices of newspapers currently facing Turkey's increasing clampdown: Cumhuriyet daily, BirGün daily, Agos daily, Evrensel daily and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi daily.

PEN International has been campaigning on free expression issues in Turkey for decades and will continue to campaign for the freedom of those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to free expression as well as protesting any sweeping powers that allow the silencing of critical voices.

PEN International president Jennifer Clement said: "Freedom of expression is protected both by Turkey's constitution and by international law. President Erdoğan's ongoing campaign to muzzle all dissident voices in Turkey must be met with resistance. That is why we are proud to be here today, figures from across PEN's global community, standing in active and public solidarity with our friends and colleagues in Turkey."

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