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247 women sign joint letter to address sexual harassment in Turkey’s publishing industry

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Following a series of sexual harassment accusations against established male writers in Turkey, 247 women working in the country’s publishing industry signed a joint letter to address rampant sexual harassment by “powerful men” in the sector, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.

The signatories, comprising writers, translators, publishers, editors and other employees in the publishing sector, jointly stated that their sense of responsibility toward women had prompted the letter.

“We, as the working and producing women of the publishing industry, are penning this declaration because of the pain of our past experiences, the unease of [potential] future ones, and our sense of responsibility toward our sisters,” the joint letter said.

“Be they publisher, editor, writer or translator, no matter what position they occupy, women’s rights and boundaries are being violated by powerful men in our industry as is the case in other sectors,” the letter said.

The women said they would not let themselves become discouraged and called for “effective measures” against sexual harassment.

Underlining that sexual violence is both a crime and a hazard to workplace safety, the signatories called for secure platforms for sexually abused women to seek justice.

In early December a woman named Leyla Salinger revealed sexual abuse by famous Turkish author Hasan Ali Toptaş, which prompted a series of revelations by other women in what became the Turkish version of the US’s Me Too movement.

Following the revelations, 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 canceled.

After Toptaş put out a statement apologizing, which he later retracted, women who were allegedly harassed by other writers such as Bora Abdo and Ali Şimşek, publisher İbrahim Çolak and journalist Çağdaş Erdoğan subsequently became involved, expressing regret over their previous silence and explaining how the memories of the incidents had haunted them for years.

After writer Aslı Tohumcu accused author Bora Abdo of sexual harassment, Turkey’s largest publishing house, İletişim, parted ways with Abdo.

“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.

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.

Çolak’s suicide led some people to blame Çolak’s death on the women who were telling their stories of sexual abuse.

The following week, 62 nongovernmental organizations in Turkey released a joint statement expressing solidarity with the women and vowing to fight against sexual violence.

Among the signatories of the statement were the Ankara Bar Association, the Ankara Women’s Platform, the İstanbul Feminist Institute, the Progressive Women’s Council and the Mor Çatı (Purple Roof) Women’s Shelter Foundation.

“It has never been easy for women to talk about the violence they were subjected to because we grew up in fear and were taught to remain silent and be ashamed of ourselves [in the wake of such incidents]. We will not remain silent, and as we speak up, we will not be the ones who are ashamed. Those who should be held to account are the perpetrators of violence, not the victims,” said the joint statement.

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