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:, and to the event under this link:

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