Ayşe Berktay’s Acceptance Remarks
Dear esteemed members of PEN American Center, dear guests,
I very much wish I could be with you in person. It was not possible but I send to you my greetings and love from Bakırköy Prison in Istanbul.
First of all I thank you for this meaningful award which is a great honor for me. Also, I want to express that I view this award and the declaration of Mr. Peter Godwin, the PEN American Center president, as an important support for the fight for freedom and democracy in Turkey.
I want you to know that I, together with thousands of my friends—thousands of Kurds, thousands of members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)—are in prison because of our peaceful political views and actions. No matter how much government officials claim that we are not in prison because of what we have written, our thoughts, or our legal political acts, or the fact that we belong to the BDP, but because we are members of a terror organization, have undertaken terrorist activities and have terrorist connections, THIS IS NOT TRUE.
Yes, that is what is written in our indictment. But the evidence provided to support these claims consists of nothing other than our writings, thoughts, and legal political activities. The only evidence they are showing to support these charges consists solely of research we have conducted and materials we have read in our capacity as intellectuals, and the objections we have put forth as citizens demanding justice and equality, freedom and democracy.
The existing anti-terror laws (and this is true not only of Turkey but of most of the world) are so vague, malleable, and broad that it makes it possible for governments to act in this way whenever they wish. In one of her articles, my friend Arundhati Roy compared anti-terror laws to a broad-spectrum antibiotic developed to wipe out the germ of opposition. She couldn’t be more right.
In these societies, this system, prisons take many different forms. We are surrounded by walls. In some cases, we have built those walls ourselves; in other cases, they been raised around us by others. I am of the belief that once we stand up for the freedom of others, possessing the awareness and spirit that their freedom is our freedom, we will tear down those walls, and in achieving freedom, contribute also to the liberation of others.
I receive The PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in that spirit and thank you for making me, for making us, believe that I am not, we are not, alone.