International PEN is concerned by the opening of trial proceedings on May 5, 2009, against the book Daughters of Allah by noted Turkish author Nedim Gürsel.

Background Information

Charged under Article 216 (3) of the Turkish Penal Code relating to “incitement to enmity or hatred,” the book is believed to “humiliate the religious values of part of the population.” The charge carries a penalty of six months to one year in prison. Although Mr. Gürsel lives in France, his publishing house, Dogan Publishing, is situated in the Sisli District of Istanbul, and the case was brought in 2008 to the Sisli Prosecutor’s office. The Prosecutor’s initial investigation concluded that there were no grounds to proceed. However, this decision was overruled and the case will be heard by the Beyoglu Heavy Criminal Court in Istanbul.

A number of writers and publishers in Turkey have been prosecuted in recent years on similar charges. Most notable are the recent, and so far unsuccessful, cases brought against the Turkish publisher of Richard Dawkin’s God Delusion. There have been no recent cases of writers being imprisoned, and there have been very few convicted. Yet the very existence of legislation that penalizes commentary on religion acts as a deterrent to free expression. Whatever their outcome, the trials often take many months, if not years, to conclude, and they sap financial and emotional resources.

PEN has long campaigned against the trials of writers under a multitude of laws in Turkey that curtail free speech on issues ranging from commentary on human rights abuses by the army, corruption, the killings of Armenians in 1915, Kurdish issues, to conscientious objection, religion, and so on. At present PEN is monitoring around 70 such trials. The trial against Nedim Gürsel is one more example of the continued suppression of free expression in Turkey. PEN reminds Turkey that the trial directly conflicts with the government’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to the European Convention on Human Rights to protect freedom of expression. PEN calls for an end to such trials and a thorough review of Turkish legislation aimed at the elimination of all articles that lead to the prosecution of the right to write freely and without hindrance.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the trial against Nedim Gürsel and other writers currently on trial in violation of their right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling for a review of all legislation that allows for the prosecution of those who practice their rights as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Send Your Letter To

Mehmet Ali Sahin
Minister of Justice
Adalet Bakanligi
06659 Ankara
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after May 30, 2009: ftw[at]