A poet contemplates his release from prison

Feb 3, 2023

İlhan Sami Çomak was a wide-eyed university student from a Kurdish village when 29 years ago he was detained in Istanbul by Turkish authorities.  He has been in prison ever since.  There he became a poet, penning deep and beautiful words about his confinement and his imaginings of the world he had lost. He has published and won awards for his writing.

In June 2024 he will finally be released and in this moving Christmas message to his supporters he asks everyone to say simultaneously upon his release “It’s done. And so, I have come. / May all the scurrilous winds be silent!

Here is his message:

My god! My god! Why have you forsaken me? So said Jesus the Prophet at the moment of that great war, Armageddon. I used to repeat that helpless cry of Jesus Christ at the beginning of my imprisonment with a desperate sadness that in itself contained a kind of eternal strength. But then I realised that it was possible to learn an unfailing lesson from this: Even if God abandons people in order to teach them a lesson, they are still within touching distance of one another and able to protect one-another by way of solidarity.

 At times, even if we forget our own strength and the warmth that one person can offer another, even then great characters will spring up amongst us. Knowing this can lead to a form of trust in the future.

We now live in a godless world. Time and the powers that be have taken the gods away from us. However, there are different ways in which one can have faith in life, other people and the future. Poetry and literature, or more generally art itself then seems to me to be the most rightful path we have to create such faith for ourselves. 

In my childhood, as a Kızılbaş Kurd, before Jesus Christ had even entered our lives, we used to entreat and make vows up on the mountains, to the great stones and the trees. It wasn’t only the children but the grown ups of the village had this same devout belief and instilled it in us. The sun and fire were held as holy. This nature-based faith most certainly has a liberating effect. But then they took nature away from us too.

But there was one way in which those who stole our gods and nature away from us did not succeed: Recollection and memories, history and culture, by creating a collective consciousness do in turn spur people into action by means of the reflex action against time and evil itself.  You, my friends, have never forgotten this reflex and this has moved me now, for years.  Your presence lightens my load and you make know to the world just what an incomparable thing of beauty it can be to be human.

 At the outset, I began a slow walk in search of human warmth. I saw very few people, and so I took refuge in my imagination and in poetry.  Poetry opened a door towards the world and you, you all heard me, you saw me and reached out to me.

Your actions of solidarity, for me, are much more than just a matter of bearing witness. In the past few years you have not only made known to the world the great suffering I have been caused to bear here, but, more importantly you have promoted and made heard my poetry: this is undeniable.  In his Leda poem Paul Eluard writes, “I wanted to renew the world / And as a shadow with no shadow.”  I have not the power to renew the world, and it’s painful for me to know this, but I do think I have been spared the fate of becoming the shadow of a shadow. You all have a kind of right, or expectation in respect to me, and this is something that I remember with pride. It’s necessary to remember this and be reminded of this in order to be a good person.  Otherwise, I am returned to the resounding fury of the rocks and trees of the mountains upon which I used to pray with the simple faith of my chidhood.

It is good that you have not left me alone during this great test. 

It is not long, now, until I will be united once again with freedom and with you, my friends. I have missed life so much.  I urgently want to take part in and be among all of the wonderful and beautiful things about life. For years now I have been pondering on what my first words will be on the day that I am let out. And they are:  It’s done. And so, I have come. / May all the scurrilous winds be silent! This is what I will say. And I ask, please, that you too will memorize these words now.  And whenever you hear that I have been released, at that moment I’d like you to repeat those words.  Together our voices will be stronger and richer.  I will hear you, and I will be with you in that moment:  It’s done. And so, I have come. / May all the scurrilous winds be silent!

I love you all, and your uplifting joy that gives me hope, your fine friendship and your beautiful, warm humanity!

Christmas was always a harbinger of good days ahead, let’s belive in that.

I hope that when I am reunited with my freedom I will be able to spend a Christmas with you. I send you all Seasons’ Greetings. 

İlhan Sami Çomak

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