Me Too movement shakes Turkish literary world, one author accused of harassment takes own life

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More and more Turkish women in social media have begun to recount their memories of sexual assault and harassment by famous Turkish authors in a Turkish version of the US’s Me Too movement, as a result of which one of the accused authors has died by suicide, apparently out of feelings of shame.

The first allegations of sexual harassment in the Turkish literary world were made against famous Turkish novelist Hasan Ali Toptaş, who later released an apology. Women who were allegedly harassed by other writers such as Bora Abdo and Ali Şimşek, publisher İbrahim Çolak and journalist Çağdaş Erdoğan subsequently got involved, expressing regret over their previous silence and explaining how the memories of the incidents had haunted them for years.

The most dramatic incident following the allegations was the suicide of publishing house owner and author İbrahim Çolak.

“I had not prepared for such an end. My wish was to be a good person, which I was unable to do,” Çolak tweeted before taking his own life.

Began with a single tweet, turned into a firestorm

The wave of revelations was triggered by Twitter user @LeylaSalinger who on Dec. 8 posted a video clip from one of Toptaş’s literary conversations and said, “How many of us are waiting for this man to be exposed?” Some 20 women responded to the tweet by sharing their experiences.

Writer Pelin Buzluk was one of the women who gave an account of her alleged harassment by Toptaş, followed by several other writers including Aslı Tohumcu and Nermin Yıldırım, who joined the conversation with their experiences and the motto “You are not alone.” Shortly afterwards, it was revealed that Toptaş had in the past harassed high school students, including Nalin Öztekin, who is now a journalist.

Öztekin tweeted: “When I look at what has been written about Hasan Ali Toptaş, I am reminded of his abusive messages to me back when I was a reader of his work as a high school student. I only told a friend of mine about it, but now I see there were a lot more of these kinds of things.”

The Twitter user named Leyla who started the wave of revelations and writer Buzluk joined forces to create an e-mail account to which women can send their experiences. The account has received hundreds of e-mails.

Everest Publishing House announced that it had parted ways with Toptaş. Producer Müge Büyüktalaş said a movie project based on a book by Toptaş was cancelled.

Turkey’s largest publishing house, İletişim, was also hit by the wave of allegations when author Bora Abdo was accused of harassment by writer Aslı Tohumcu.

“As the İletişim Publishing House, we stand with our writers Pelin Buzluk and Aslı Tohumcu against the inhumane bullying and harassment they were subjected to. We would like to announce to our readers that we have terminated our cooperation with Bora Abdo,” the company said.

Ali Şimşek’s abusive messages

İdil Akkuş started a wave of allegations against author Ali Şimşek.

“This man sent a message to his friend’s daughter that said, ‘I get off just thinking about you.’ Ali Şimşek is a molester, don’t hold him in any kind of high esteem. In 2013, when I was 18, he harassed me for months. I thank all the women who spoke out. #MeToo”

After Akkuş’s tweet appeared online, many women posted about Şimşek, alleging sexual harassment during their high school and university years.

Rape allegation against journalist Çağdaş Erdoğan

Journalist Çağdaş Erdoğan was the first to be accused of rape. Photojournalist Cansu Yıldıran raised the allegation on Twitter, as others had done.

“With the power I get from women, I will no longer remain silent and I want to expose this scumbag to everyone and not just my close circle of friends. Çağdaş Erdoğan, who works for 140journos is a rapist. Enough is enough. I don’t want to carry this burden any longer. I want to shout it out: Çağdaş Erdoğan is a rapist!” Yıldıran said.

Yıldıran’s tweet received thousands of retweets and likes, while colleagues such as Eylül Su Çuha and Meltem Satıoğlu came forward to share what they knew about the rape allegation.

Writers union calls for sanctions

While Turkey has had Me Too movements in the past, none of them has had as big an impact as the one in the Turkish literary world.

People who took the allegations lightly also got their share of reactions, such as Ali Lidar, who lost his publishing contract after saying that Hasan Ali Toptaş was “lynched.”

The Writers Syndicate of Turkey (TYS) released a statement calling for sanctions against publishing houses.

“We emphasize that disturbing men or women through sexually offensive words or acts involving violence, threats and systematic insults amounts to harassment, and that it constitutes a crime. We call on the members of the literary community to organize. To combat harassment and rape, we believe that it would be effective and necessary for award juries to include a related provision in their regulations and publishing houses in their copyright contracts. Women’s awareness, strength and collective action will carry us forward in every way.”

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