Deniz yucel at the frankfurt literaturhaus : from freedom to imprisonment

The journalist talks about his time in Turkish jail more than a year after his release. His book is to be published in October.

Deniz Yucel is standing in front of the Tiergarten District Court in Berlin, wearing a white shirt and a jacket and pointing out of the picture with the finder

Deniz Yucel before a hearing at the Tiergarten District Court in Berlin Photo: dpa

FRANKFURT taz | Shortly after seven, cloudless sky. The air builds up on the large white pillars of the building’s entrance, it is over 30 degrees hot. Deniz Yucel, white T-shirt and blue jeans, comes smiling around the corner, walking fast. In his left hand a cigarette, which he draws on often and deeply, in his right a coat hanger with a shirt and jacket. Yucel is alone, in freedom.

More than a year after his release from Turkish custody in February 2018, Deniz Yucel spoke out again on Wednesday at the Literaturhaus on Frankfurt’s banks of the Main River. Together with longtime taz editor Doris Akrap and moderated by Martin Wiesmann, otherwise with the bank JP Morgan, Yucel spoke about his imprisonment. Title of event: "Freedom is something you do."

And Yucel did just that, being free. Even in Turkish detention, for example, by writing. "Every time I smuggled a text out of there, it was a piece of satisfaction and my personal freedom," Yucel says, describing his everyday resistance to control by prison staff.

His imprisonment, of a journalist who had become too inconvenient, was supposed to silence him – "and I won’t let that happen," he resolved.

"Like some war veteran"

This is how Yucel repeatedly managed to transport small articles or almost entire book manuscripts to freedom. "This boy’s pedantry is sometimes hard to bear," Doris Akrap comments flippantly, placing her hand on a thick stack of white, loose notes. 496 pages are.

The slips of paper on which Yucel sent ideas and instructions to Akrap from detention about publishing his earlier texts in book form. Handwritten 496 pages with annotations from blurb to text selection.

"At least I knew the man was busy doing it," Akrap says. Yucel holds up his hand and shows the calluses from writing that he still has today. "Like such a war veteran," he comments to loud applause.

Not all letters reached Yucel in prison

And the fight also wanted to be organized. "I was writing strategy papers like that," Yucel recounts. "What to do? Ran to the capital", so his suggestion. While diplomatic talks failed to shorten his detention and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – whom Yucel likes to call a "gangster boss" – publicly called him a "terrorist," the goal was to "drive up the cost of my detention," Yucel says.

Yucel describes everyday life in prison as a "wasteland of steel, concrete and barbed wire" as he pulls out a stack of colorful notes from his jacket pocket. They are the little letters that his wife Dilek Mayaturk-Yucel sent him in order to bring "some color into the everyday life in prison. Deniz Yucel leafs through, looks smilingly at his wife.

"It says something like ‘I’m in love with you’ and next to it is the stamp of the Letter Stamp Commission," he says, holding up a small pink slip of paper. The many letters and postcards from supporters and friends had not reached him for a long time, only the letters of his mother-in-law and later those of his wife had survived the control in prison.

Torture in detention

Nevertheless, Yucel emphasizes again and again that the solidarity in Germany, the many readings and car parades, were very important for him.

Deniz Yucel’s book "Agent Terrorist," a retrospective of his imprisonment in Turkey and an analysis of the state of Turkish democracy, is scheduled for publication in October. In May, the World Yucel’s defense statement, in which he made public for the first time torture in detention.

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