Activist Targeted by Turkish Authorities Again
By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
COLOGNE, Germany — What is really happening in Turkey? And where is it going to lead? What began as a protest against government plans for Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square has swelled into a mass movement throughout the country and those thousands of citizens engaging in civil disobedience are giving no signs of capitulation. Not only: solidarity actions are unfolding in other countries especially in Germany, which hosts a very large Turkish community. Here, a new judicial scandal against a leading German-Turkish intellectual, which broke out just prior to the Gezi protests, is intersecting the ferment and fuelling the wave of solidarity with those fighting for democracy and free speech in Turkey.
The victim of the new judicial scandal is Turkish-born Dogan Akhanli, a well-known writer and human rights activist based in Cologne, Germany. The author of several novels, articles and a recent play, he has dealt in depth with the issue of the Armenian Genocide and, as a civil society activist, has participated in seminars and conferences aimed at educating broader layers of the population about this and related historical issues. Not only in Germany but also in Turkey, he has engaged personally in activities of the growing civil society movement among intellectuals, presenting his literary works in public and writing in the Turkish press. His is a prominent figure, highly respected for his courage to speak out even in the face of harassment and repression.
Now, perhaps in reaction to this enhanced stature, the Turkish judicial authorities have unleashed a new witch-hunt against him. In April, an Appeals Court in Ankara published its decision to re-open a case and even to seek a life sentence against him. The facts are the following: Akhanli, who was a leftist in the 1980s, had been arrested and jailed and tortured under the military regime at the time (1985-87). In 1991, he managed to flee to Germany, where he received political asylum and later citizenship. Years later, in August 2010, he flew to Istanbul (regardless of the possible political danger), because he wanted to visit his father who was very old and ill. Arrested at the airport, he was thrown into jail, and remained there for several months. (He was not allowed to visit his father, nor to attend his funeral.)