Feb 06, 2017

Iranian Kurdistan: PEN Intl Urges Turkey to Release Two Activist Writers


On 3 February 2017, PEN International called on the Turkish Government to immediately release Kurdish-Iranian essayist and translator Sajad Jahanfard and writer and linguist Hasan Balade, who were charged with membership of a terrorist organisation on 25 January 2017. In early January the two academics travelled with a tourist visa to the city of Mardin, in Turkey, to pursue their literary activities. Now, they are facing up to ten years imprisonment for affiliations with Kurdish intellectuals and publishers.

Below is an article published by Kurdistan 24:

An international organization on Friday [3 February 2017] urged Turkey to release a Kurdish-Iranian writer and his friend who were visiting the Kurdistan of Turkey.

In a statement, PEN International said it was concerned with the arrest and detention of the Kurdish-Iranian writer and journalist Sajjad Jahan Fard, including his friend Hassan Baladeh.

The men were charged on Jan. 25, 2017, with “membership to a terrorist organization” after taking pictures during a tourist visit to the city of Mardin, Kurdistan of Turkey.

They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

“PEN International fears that [Fard] and [Baladeh] are being targeted for their links with Kurdish intellectuals, academics, and publishing houses,” the organization said.

PEN called on the Turkish authorities to release the two men immediately.

Fard, 32, is a writer from Iran and a member of the Kurdish PEN Centre.

He is the author of several books about Kurdish culture, language, and folklore, including “The Myths of the Land of Medes,” “A life in Silence,” and “Names-letters of Manisht.”

He also works as an editor for the Kurdish website Jiyar Kurd.

PEN stated freedom of expression in Turkey had deteriorated sharply since the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

“Over 170 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree following the imposition of a state of emergency, a period that has been characterized by the heavy-handed use of extraordinary powers while normal constitutional protections are suspended,” PEN International said.

The organization reported as of Jan. 18,  2017, at least 151 writers and journalists had been arrested and detained without charge or were awaiting trial in Turkey.

“There has also been a massive crackdown on Turkey’s Kurdish population, with arrests of Kurdish journalists, closures of pro-Kurdish media outlets, [and] the forced replacement of elected local officials,” PEN added.

The largest international writers’ organization said while Turkey had the right to ensure safety, it should not sacrifice human rights and freedom of speech.

PEN also noted there had been a “crackdown in the Kurdish regions” and urged Turkey to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict.

A delegation of PEN writers traveled to Turkey in January 2017 to assess the situation in the country and express solidarity with the victims of the crackdown on free speech.