11 Romanian authors wrote to jailed writers in Turkey. The first answer came back

11 Romanian authors wrote to jailed writers in Turkey. The first answer came back
Pictured above are Ioana Morpugo and Zafer Özcan

2 July 2021

Eleven Romanian writers who sent letters to authors imprisoned in Turkey have just received their first response.

Ioana Morpugo, a Romanian author based in the UK, was the first to receive her correspondence from detained Turkish journalist Zafer Özcan. He was sentenced to more than seven years of jail time in March 2019 after being found guilty of belonging to a terrorist group — a charge that human rights activists say was levelled at him as part of a crackdown against press freedom.

“I received your letter one Sunday, while I was buried in my writing, in the small concrete garden in our section,” Özcan wrote. “Your letter made me feel so good that I read it multiple times,” he added. “I try to imagine what people, friends, and colleagues whose freedom is not restricted are up to. I am happy that there are dear people around the world who can do what I cannot.”

Morpugo had started her letter to Zafer Özcan by citing a note he’d written to his daughter, in which he’d described the “milky blue sky” he could see through the prison window. “The newspapers say that you were arrested as you were taking your children to school. From now on, every morning, coming home after taking my children to school here, at the other end of the continent, I will whisper your name,” she wrote.

Initiated by the Turkish journalist Necdet Celik, the gesture was coordinated by PEN Romania. The Romanian writers participating in the initiative included the heads of the organisation, poets Radu Vancu and Claudiu Komartin, writers Magda Cârneci and Elena Vlădăreanu, and literary critics Bogdan Crețu and Bogdan Ghiu. They sent letters to eleven Turkish writers, including Mehmet Baransu, Faruk Akkan, and Vahit Yazgan.

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