Literature -the art form that arguably comprises the backbone of any culture- not only remains at the vanguard of critical thinking but also serves as a catalyst for the thoughts and feelings that in turn create political change.
From the preface to Dawn, translated by Amy Spangler and Kate Ferguson (Hogarth Press, 2019)
Writer and former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish rights opposition party in Turkey, Selahattin Demirtaş has been held in pre-trial detention in Turkey since 4 November 2016 . He faces up to a combined total of 142 years in prison if convicted.
His arrest and detention on dubious terrorism charges came after a controversial temporary constitutional amendment that lifted HDP deputies’ parliamentary immunity, including Demirtaş’s. The evidence used against him consists largely of his political speeches and press statements and lacks any compelling evidence of criminal activity.
The Turkish authorities have so far failed to implement the European Court of Human Rights judgments from 2018 and 2020, which found that the detention of Demirtaş pursued the ‘ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate’ and ordered his immediate release.
Selahattin Demirtaş’s case is emblematic of the harassment, threats, and persecution that critical voices have been facing in Turkey, particularly since the coup attempt of July 2016 and the breakdown of the rule of law that followed.
While in prison Selahattin Demirtaş wrote a collection of short stories entitled Seher (Dawn), which instantly became a best-seller and was translated into scores of languages. Most notably, its English translation by Amy Spangler and Kate Ferguson (Hogarth Press, 2019) won an English PEN PEN Translates award. His latest book Devran was published in 2019 in Turkey .
The next hearing in his trial will be held on 6 May 2021 .
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Photo credit: Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Press Office