End of August, Madrid: At the Turkish government’s request through Interpol, Spanish police arrested a famous Turkish writer, Dogan Akhanli, who was on vacation in Spain. A few days earlier, in Barcelona, Spanish authorities had arrested the Turkish writer, Hamza Yalcin, a reporter for the left-wing newspaper Odak. Meanwhile, in Turkey, another writer, Ahmet Altan was on trial. Turkish authorities prevented yet another Turkish novelist, Asli Erdogan, from flying to Europe to receive the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize in the German city of Osnabrück.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey has already made headlines for jailing dozens of journalists in a round-up that has transformed Turkey into “the world’s biggest prison for reporters”. Perhaps even more objectionable is Turkey’s persecution of novelists who do not even take part in the political debate. They are hated by Erdogan’s Islamist government simply for conveying Western ideas and fighting for freedom of speech. What is happening in Turkey is even more urgent than what is happening in Iran and Saudi Arabia, two other Islamic countries that persecute and jail writers: Turkey is, at least rhetorically, a democracy as well as the Islamic world’s purported bridge to Europe.