Media Freedom

PEN Ukraine sends a letter of solidarity to Osman Kavala

In his letter addressed to arrested businessperson Kavala, novelist Andrey Kurkov says, “Your entire situation seems to me so surreal that, if I did not know that it was your reality, I would assume it was a story by Orwell. Maybe with the help of Kafka…”


PEN Ukraine President and novelist Andriy Kurkov has addressed a letter of solidarity to arrested businessperson and rights defender Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars in Turkey for 1,113 days.

“I love your country and its history and that makes me feel even more bitter,” Kurkov has said in his letter, adding, “I would be happy to welcome you in Ukraine once you are free. I believe this time will come very soon.”

The full letter of Kurkov reads as follows:

“Dear Osman,

Osman Kavala

“You know that this summer 1000 pebbles were laid out on Parliament Hill, overlooking London. This was done to mark 1000 days that you spent in Silivri prison, having been arrested on the 1st of November 2017. You were acquitted by local court and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that your detention was unlawful. Then new accusations were brought against you, accusations which reminded me of Stalin‘s terror of 1930s – you were accused of espionage, a charge that indicates that the authorities want to keep you locked up for life!

“I cannot explain myself why the Turkish Authorities are so afraid of you? Is being an active member of civil society a crime? Is it a crime to be a co-founder of a publishing house that gave Turkish readers access to books by many world class writers, such as Nabokov, Joice, Faulkner? In fact, my first and only book in Turkish was also published by Iletisim Publishers.

“And now you are still in Silivri High Security prison – definitely the most modern and the biggest prison in Turkey and probably in Europe too. I have read that this prison is a marvel of the Turkish penitentiary system, it can house 11 000 inmates and in fact, officially, it is called a prison campus which might make one think of academia and higher learning. Apparently, you are 5 km away from the sea, from the beach and you have the freedom to lock your cell from inside! And also, apparently, you have in your cell a button to press if you want to call for help! Or have I misunderstood the purpose of this button? According to feedback on Google Maps the prison guards that might appear if you press this button are quite impatient and impolite.

Silivri Penitentiaries Campus

“Your entire situation seems to me so surreal that, if I did not know that it was your reality, I would assume it was a story by George Orwell. Maybe with the help of Franz Kafka.

“I feel very bitter about it. I know many people are thinking of you and wishing you freedom. The world of human humans is on your side and will be standing by you until the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is fulfilled and you are acquitted for good from all the false accusations.

“I love your country and its history and that makes me feel even more bitter. Many years ago, I invited the most known Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk to visit Ukraine and as a result we have now many of his novels translated into Ukrainian. He is also one of the authors published by Iletisim Publishers. He is one of the writers who brought Turkey to the world. I would be happy to welcome you in Ukraine once you are free. I would be very happy for you to return to civil society activities and cultural projects.

“I believe this time will come very soon. See you in Kiev or in Istanbul.

“Yours friendly, Andrey Kurkov, Novelist”


Sunday 15th November marks the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Human rights action “Empty chairs” in support of Ukrainian political prisoners. Since the 1980s, “an empty chair” has symbolized an author who could not be present at an event – due to imprisonment or having been murdered.


The Empty Chairs rally in support of Ukrainian political prisoners took place in Kyiv.

The empty chairs had sheets with the names of Ukrainians who were illegally detained in Russia, as well as Russia-occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and Crimea. Among them are those of Denys Kashuk, Olena Pekh, Osman Arifmemetov, Timur Ibragimov, Marlen Asanov, Valeriy Matyushenko, and others.

Also Turkish activists remembered writer and journalist Ahmet Altan, who has been in prison for 1508 days. An empty white chair was placed in the square for Ahmet Altan.

More than 120 journalists still jailed in Turkey: International Press Institute

More than 120 journalists are still being held in Turkey’s jails, a global record, and the situation of the media in the country has not improved since the lifting of a two-year state of emergency last year, a global press watchdog said.

Turkey declared a state of emergency soon after a failed coup in 2016. It sacked or suspended 150,000 judges, academics, military officers, civil servants and others during the two years it was in force on suspicion of backing a U.S.-based cleric blamed by Ankara for the coup. More than 77,000 people were jailed pending trial.

Hundreds of journalists have faced prosecution since the coup, mainly on terrorism-related charges, the International Press Institute (IPI) said in a new report, adding the number of journalists still in jail had fallen from a high of over 160.

Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment on the report.


Andriy Kurkov is a Ukrainian novelist and an independent thinker who writes in Russian. He is the author of 19 novels, including the bestselling Death and the Penguin, 9 books for children, and about 20 documentary, fiction and TV movie scripts. His work is currently translated into 37 languages, including English, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Swedish, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew, and published in 65 countries. Ukrainian novelist Andriy Kurkov is also co-founder of the International Dialogue and Cultural Center Syaivo in Kyiv.


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