Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Interview

Erdogan's attack backfired, Turkish writer says

  • Akhanli moved to Germany in 1991 (Photo: Amnesty International)

Turkey's attempt to silence dissident writer Dogan Akhanli has backfired by giving him a bigger platform, he told EUobserver in an interview.

Akhanli spoke amid Turkey's attempt to extradite him from Spain on terrorism charges.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Turkey's post-coup crackdown saw tens of thousands of people jailed (Photo: Reuters)

He is currently stuck in Madrid after Spanish police arrested him while he was on holiday on the basis of a Turkish Interpol request.

He said the "Kafkaesque" process was the latest step in a campaign that began long ago.

Akhanli was born in Turkey, but fled to Germany in 1991 after being persecuted for his views on the Armenian Genocide and on Turkey's repression of its Kurdish minority.

He also spent four months in a Turkish jail in 2010 after visiting the country.

"Turkish power cannot forgive me because I questioned the basic problems of Turkey," he told this website.

The writer said his novels had not made him a celebrity. "I'm not a best-seller," he said.

But he said that "Turkish persecution makes me more known year by year and makes my words bigger. It is actually a very stupid policy".

He said Turkey's latest attempt to deprive him of his freedom had inspired him to write a new book.

"I'm trying to write a report about my political-literary journey into the Turkish past, which is also my own past," he told this website from Spain.

"I will take a very subjective view of my unfinished persecution, but I will also reflect on how to deal with the history of violence in German, Spanish, and Turkish society", he said.

History of violence

Akhanli said the Turkish regime had embraced violence as a means of rule.

He said this lay at the root of its denial of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and of its handling of Kurdish separatism.

He also said the regime's nationalist ideology created a dangerous environment.

He recalled that Turkish generals "publicly threatened" Hrant Dink, a journalist, in 2007 prior to Dink's murder by a nationalist fanatic.

"Under the Erdogan government, the history of violence is not just a story. It is not passive. It is killing people before our very eyes," he said, referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He said Erdogan's mass arrests of people accused of sympathising with last year's failed coup, such as Ahmet Sik, another journalist, were part of the same pattern.

Sik is one of 158 journalists in prison, along with 12 MPs, 85 mayors, and more than 50,000 others who were detained on coup-related charges.

"One cannot give up on the people in such a country, where there is enormous arbitrariness and despotism," Akhanli said.

He thanked two artists' groups, the Goethe Institute and PEN International, for helping to pay his living costs in Madrid and his legal fees.

But he said the EU ought to do more to promote democracy in Turkey.

"He [Erdogan] cannot continue to rule Turkey in the long term with only the support of the rural population. EU countries should side with the secular, democratic forces, not with the despot," Akhanli said.

Kafkaesque

Akhanli's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, told EUobserver it could take "months" before the Spanish government decided whether to extradite his client.

In the meantime, the 60-year old writer has been forced to surrender his passport and must report to authorities every Monday to prove that he is in Madrid.

His wife has been travelling between Germany and Spain since August to keep him company.

Even if Turkey's request comes to nothing, it has highlighted the way rogue Interpol members use the international police agency to intimidate their enemies, Boye said.

It has also highlighted Spain's track record on extraditions, he added.

"There is systematic abuse of Interpol by certain countries, but also Spain could have done more - they could have rejected it [the Interpol notice]," he said.

He said Spain had a history of extraditing people without due consideration of the merits of their case.

The lawyer said Interpol abusers were "jurisdiction shopping" in Europe and that Spain had become "heaven" for their attacks.

"If I were Erdogan and I wanted to grab a Turkish citizen, wherever he may be, I would wait until that person was passing through Spain before I placed my Interpol notice," Boye said.

Interpol reform

Turkey has also asked Interpol, the international police agency, to issue Red Notices on two journalists - Hamza Yalcin and Can Dundar.

Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Russia are likewise said to use its systems to harass political exiles.

Leading NGOs, such as Fair Trials in the UK, the New York-based Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders in Paris, have urged the police agency to weed out abuse.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg is to debate the problem with EU officials on Wednesday evening.

Interpol did not reply to EUobserver's questions in time for publication.

The Spanish interior ministry declined to comment.

'I thought I was safe in Europe'

Arrest of Turkish dissident has again highlighted the way rogue regimes use Interpol to hunt their enemies inside the EU.

Opinion

Turkish journalists on trial for fake crimes

Journalists from Turkey's Zaman newspaper stand trial this week on fake charges that include "perception engineering" and "violating the rights of statesmen".

Opinion

Interpol and the EU: don't play politics

Debate on the EU police agency threatens to undermine its neutrality and the treatment of individuals who cannot enlist political support.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us