Status: In Exile
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 Kurdistan 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, 2016, as the trial opened, Erdoğan was granted a conditional release from detention, and was released under a travel ban that evening. The travel ban was lifted for both Erdoğan and fellow defendant Necmiye Alpay on June 22, 2017. As a result, Erdoğan escaped to Germany in self-imposed exile in order to avoid prosecution. As of October 2019, Erdoğan is currently under trial by the Turkish government for terrorism charges.
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.