Aslı Erdoğan is a renowned novelist and human rights activist in Turkey. She is also a columnist for Özgür Gündem newspaper, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily, and a member of its advisory board. On August 16, 2016, Erdoğan was detained from her home by Istanbul police. Her arrest came alongside the arrest of more than 20 other journalists and employees from Özgür Gündem, which was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency in the country following the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Turkish courts stated that the outlet made “propaganda for the PKK,” the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which is listed as a terrorist group, and acted “as its de facto news outlet.” On November 23, 2016, an Istanbul court dropped the charges of disrupting national unity against Erdoğan and eight others charged in the case; however, the terrorism charges still stand, and the indictment seeks an aggravated life sentence for Erdoğan, as well as the other writers and activists associated with  Özgür Gündem. On December 29, as the trial opened, Erdoğan was granted a conditional release from detention, and was released that evening. The trial has continued in January. 

Case History

In her writing, Aslı Erdoğan tackles controversial issues such as torture, human rights violations in prisons, violence against women, and Kurdish rights. As a novelist, Aslı Erdoğan’s first novel, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man), was published in 1994 and has since published 7 books. Her short story “Wooden Birds” received the first place prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition, and her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades abroad and has been published in English. Her texts have also been translated to French, and in 2005 she was shortlisted by respected French literary magazine, Lire, as one of the “50 most promising authors of tomorrow.” She has previously written for the Turkish left-wing newspaper Radikal. As a result, she has been persecuted, lost numerous jobs, has been subjected to smear campaigns, and has been forced into exile for several years.

Özgür Gündem, meaning “free agenda,” was founded in 1992 and reports on the Kurdish-Turkish conflict; the newspaper is frequently under investigation and fined, and many of its journalists have been arrested.

Take Action

Write to Asli:

Click here to send a letter of solidarity to Aslı Erdoğan, a Turkish writer and activist who is currently being held in detention and has been denied access to medication and water.

The family of Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist who spent three months in prison on trial for espionage and revealing confidential documents, recently told PEN America, "Each note was such a dear friend to [him] when he was in solitary, a window to a world in solidarity...It will mean the world to Aslı."


Author #AsliErdogan shouldn't be behind bars for daring to write about human rights violations. #FreeAsli #PENFeaturedCase

Sign the petition:

Demand that President Erdoğan of Turkey safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect obligations under international law during this period of emergency. Click here to add your name.