You walk backwards — poem for Dogan

Dogan Akhanlı, the writer and human rights activist from Cologne has been under arrest since 10th August 2010 – and for no good reason! Günter Grass, Edgar Hilsen­rath, Yasar Kemal, Zülfü Livaneli, Orhan Pamuk and Mikis Theodor­akis, amongst others, have called for an imme­diate release.

Dogan Akhanlı was arrested at Istanbul airport on 10th August 2010.

Akhanlı had trav­elled to Turkey to visit his sick father, for the first time since his flight in 1991. The Turkish state pros­e­cutor accused Akhanlı initially of being involved in a robbery of a currency exchange office, October 1989, during which a person was killed. Akhanlı has vigor­ously denied having any connec­tion with this attack. His lawyers Haydar Erol (Istanbul) and Ilias Uyar (Cologne) have ascer­tained that the state pros­e­cu­tion cannot come up with either witnesses or any evidence for this accusation.

The Istanbul Judi­cial Author­i­ties turned down three appeals against a remand in custody. On 6th September 2010, the 11th divi­sion for crim­inal matters of the Istanbul crim­inal court autho­rised a trial with charges — a date for the trial has not yet been confirmed. The Turkish state pros­e­cutor pleads for a life-sentence. Akhanlı is now being accused of having organ­ised the attack. He is more­over, consid­ered to be the leader of a plot to over­throw consti­tu­tional order in Turkey”. The polit­ical organ­i­sa­tion that Dogan Akhanlı actu­ally belonged to in the 1980’s has been clas­si­fied as not worth pursuing” and the members were cleared of the accu­sa­tion of having planned an overthrow.

To the Person

The writer Dogan Akhanlı, born in 1957, went under­ground in Turkey after the mili­tary putsch of 1980. He was impris­oned as a polit­ical pris­oner in the Istanbul mili­tary prison from 1985 to 1987, and was tortured there. He fled to Germany in 1991 and was recog­nised there as a polit­ical refugee, later being expa­tri­ated from Turkey. He has lived in Cologne as a writer since the mid 1990’s, and received a German pass­port in 2001.

In novels, arti­cles, inter­views and projects, Akhanlı has consis­tently campaigned for a discourse on violence and for the indi­vis­i­bility of human rights, one of his core themes being the remem­brance of 20th Century geno­cides (including the Armenian mass murder), and an inter­cul­tural, concil­i­a­tion-oriented dialogue. He is a teacher and volun­tary worker in many Cologne cultural insti­tu­tions. His projects have been supported by amongst others, the German Foun­da­tion Memory, Respon­si­bility and Future” and distin­guished by the Alliance for Democ­racy and Toler­ance. Akhanlıs have novels have been elected as the most impor­tant publi­ca­tions in Turkey (“Madonna’nin Son Hayali” The Madonna’s Last Dream, 2005). The news­paper Hürriyet” awarded him with the 2009 Prize for Liter­a­ture. Dogan Akhanlı has campaigned inten­sively for clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the murder of Hrant Dink and remem­bers the peace­making work of this jour­nalist and author.

Dogan Akhanlı’s situ­a­tion is not unique – that is another reason why your soli­darity is now so important!

You can find current infor­ma­tion on Akhanlı’s situ­a­tion under this link: www​.das​-kultur​forum​.de, and to the event under this link: www​.liter​aturhaus​-koeln​.de

Press state­ment Cologne House of Liter­a­ture (English trans­la­tion Tanya Ury)

Dogan Akhanli is, and remains free
Albrecht Kieser, The Rhine Jour­nal­ists’ Office 10.12.2010

Ladies and Gentlemen! Dear Friends!

The news that Dogan Akhanli is free spread like wild­fire on Wednesday evening. We would like to confirm this with a few more details than those given in the many, various announce­ments and communications:

The 11th Crim­inal Chamber has reversed the pre-trial deten­tion of Dogan. He has not been put under any resi­dence restric­tions, so may leave and return to Turkey at any time he wishes.
A resump­tion of the trial has been set for the 9th March 2010.

These are the bare facts. Now to some of the pecu­liar­i­ties of the judi­cial decree:

  1. On Wednesday evening, the Court did not make their deci­sion publicly known to those attending the trial, and did not even inform the accused. The deci­sion was rather given to those waiting outside the court, by the bailiff, in the form of printed hand­outs. At this point the accused was already on his way back to prison. Such methods of pronouncing judge­ment are still common in Turkey, even though the Turkish judi­ciary has often been called to task for such conduct by the Euro­pean Court of Justice.
  2. This was partic­u­larly appalling in Dogan’s case because he was only given the second part of the deci­sion regarding the resump­tion of the trial, while he was on the prison bus. This meant that during the two-hour ride, he believed he would have to remain in prison until then, and felt corre­spond­ingly desperate.
  3. With this deci­sion, the Court tried to save face” in two ways. Although the pros­e­cu­tion couldn’t even bring any verbal evidence for their accu­sa­tions to trial, the Court didn’t end this farce. In this way it saved” face in nation­alist circles that would define any crit­i­cism of Turkey as being hostile to Turkey” and are there­fore prepared to pin any sort of crime onto those perse­cuted, as has been the case with Dogan Akhanli. The Court itself adheres to the same polit­i­cally rightwing atti­tudes as does the prosecution.
  4. The Court saved face” regarding a crit­ical Turkish and inter­na­tional public, in that they allowed Dogan to go free. The pres­sure under which the 11th Crim­inal Chamber, and the honourable judge found itself, was tangible in that the Court accepted coura­geous and on the offen­sive accusatory state­ments by the defence without oppo­si­tion – a highly unusual proce­dure in Turkish courts – and also toler­ated the pres­ence of some 100 spec­ta­tors in the court­room, even though there was only space for no more than 40 people.

Dogan was first informed that he was a free man, after he had arrived at Tekirdag Prison. Friends then collected him and brought him back to Istanbul, where he arrived just before midnight and was able to cele­brate his freedom together with many others. He will remain in Turkey for a few days, visiting his village on the Black Sea coast, amongst other places (it was also here that people spoke out to support him in his trial, by the way). Dogan will return to Germany before Christmas.

It was because of the great inter­na­tional soli­darity, supported by so many people and groups that an actual end to this game being played with Dogan Akhanli was achieved. Dogan thanks every­body heartily for that. Dogan also informed us yesterday that during his stay at Tekirdag, he got to know many other pris­oners being held on similar flimsy grounds, who are however, less known or even unknown”. He hopes that his release will initiate an end to people being punished for their views in Turkey and that the very many polit­ical pris­oners will even­tu­ally be set free. Our crit­ical regard on the func­tion of Turkish judi­cial process regarding this type of lynch judge­ment will be required beyond the events of yesterday. In the following weeks we will make rele­vant infor­ma­tion avail­able on the website. But first we would person­ally like to thank all those many, many people, for their grand soli­darity and the very fruitful collab­o­ra­tion in helping towards this campaign to achieve freedom for Dogan.

For Albrecht Kieser’s circle of supporters

(Trans­la­tion from German Tanya Ury)

you walk backwards

through wander walls
toe to heel
toward the stuff of incubus
waging resistance

du wagst es

you walk in the rain

without shoes
but clad in irons
a bridled bit
harnessed to
a bitter bride
allied to the lie


your walk is circular

while flight is mine
a frag­ment figment
to where you walk
a fly against
the prison wall

ich fliege auf dich

I wonder at how you walk

you do not soil your fingers
combing graves
turning earth
aerating the matter
stroking unhal­lowed land
forking out rage
fallow fall out

dein fall

where you walk I wonder

what you wear
in badly drained dreams
your side
of the divide

a sock of song
a vest attested
weight invested
a tie of time
a cape of hope
to cap it all

du bist eine kleidermauer

genet walked through prison walls

you walk
towards the music
miti­gating migration
for those
in transit
made tacit


walk away you don’t

to hide
from saying sooth
a truth
that they
explain away
a way of worth
to walk
they feign

das bist du nicht

you walk innocent

the other face
they show
tone dead
it’s they who
wear them

you care to think
in kind

ein kind deiner zeit

walking live

you are
wary wired
and we
wait here
to meet you
half way
greet you
tuning fork
in hand

trägst du sie auf händen


2010 (31.10) Tanya Ury & Artists Read for Freedom, Soli­darity Event for the Cologne Writer Dogan Akhanli, 6 pm Forum Volk­shochschule in the Museum Raut­en­strauch-Joest, Cäcilien­straße 29 – 33, Cologne (D)

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