Friday

20th Oct 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Macron puts trade policy on summit table

France's president wants a "political discussion" on EU trade policies at Thursday's summit, amid domestic concerns over Canada and South America deals. But his colleagues are likely to avoid a lengthy debate.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving up to 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  5. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  9. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  10. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  11. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  12. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  3. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  4. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  5. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  6. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  7. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  11. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups