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Imprisonment is A Black Hole

There is a new letter from journalist-author Emre Soncan, who has been imprisoned for 42 days in Silivri Prison. The last time he had met his readers was when he had delivered the letter titled “Imprisonment in Spring” back in March, and this time, he wrote from the “black hole” where the time is frozen in the month of Ramadan, while he was sitting on empty iftar tables all alone.

Here is Emre’s letter:

“I am filled with love and friendship…

I don’t need the freedom of flowers or birds;

What I need is the freedom of love, insanity, and unsettling thought inside of me.”

(Sait Faik Abasiyanik)

We wake up to the twilight of sahur together with my loneliness, isolation, and self. While my loneliness steeps tea; my isolation prepares our breakfast composed of tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, and olives; and for myself, the only thing remains is to sit on the table and eat. I turn on the television, just because it is customary, to watch some sahur program, and since I cannot find any sincerity with the commentators or the things coming out from their mouths, I just push the red button located on the top corner of the remote… Then, it is not customary at all, I start listening to 90s songs from TRT FM, the imperative radio station in prison. Just as I finish washing the dishes and start cleaning the sink, the first “Allahu Akbar” falls into the prison yard. While I regret not drinking another cup of water, the prison witnesses the oneness of the Creator and Muhammad (PBUH) being the messenger of Him. While the barbed wires, iron cages, and metal bars grieve asking “Do we hinder this divine music to reach out more?”, I put a shadowy smile on my lips and tell them “Don’t worry, you are the essential decor of this magical scene”. They rejoice, of course, and while they do, the azan ends up, but its calling seems like hanging in the air of Silivri for a while. Consecutively, the morning birds take the stage, and while their sleepy cheeps hit the windows of the ward, I gravely take down the shutters of my eyes.

When I was in primary school, I had asked the same question over and over again to my mother “How much time for iftar?”, and after the reproach of the poor woman who had had enough of me, I had flamed up and improperly broken my fast eating silently the stuffed grape leaves in the cooking pot. And then I had sat on the iftar table like a coldblooded killer in order to wait for the azan, and right after I heard the voice of the muezzin, I had broken my fast once again with a hesitant submission to God by eating the same stuffed grape leaves. Although I do not break my fast improperly anymore, I continue coming eye to eye with the clock more often as the iftar approaches. I save the afternoon meals delivered by the administration in order to combine it with the evening meal, and then I sit on the table which can be qualified as rich considering the prison conditions, and meet my spoon with the plate as soon as the azan starts, finally to take the pleasure of being one step closer to the “blessed 11 months”. After the dishwashing phase is over, I incline my ears to the noise coming from the hallway and realize that the clanging sounds are coming from prison’s ironware cart. I witness the surprise release of a friend by looking through the tiny window on the door of the ward. My wishes of welfare embrace his wishes towards our release. I gently sigh, turn off the lights, and snuggle into the silky arms of sleep.

***

Prison is the place where the cliché of “being happy about little things” is incarnated. The brown color of the iron doors, windows, and bars are so dark, I feel like I have been looking at nothingness for a thousand years. I would like to pierce through that color with my looks and scrape it off from the ward, but all in vain. So, I try to colorize the ward with the books I received from my friends, drawings they made for me, newspaper parts I had cut out, photos I had taken during contact visits, and with the yellow of the lemons I had aligned between the window bars. While my struggle continues, I had a very big surprise. The most recent tablecloth I bought, contrary to the previous ones, was very colorful. Green, pink, and porcelain teapot and teacup pictures over a yellow background. Oh my God, what a joy! I treat it with kid gloves; I do not read the newspaper on it in order not to spread ink over it, and I am always vigilant not to spill food on its green, yellow, and pink colors. And then I have a heart-shaped red clock, which I also bought from the canteen. If I had a chance to pick, probably I would not have chosen such a feminine clock. It turned out okay on the other hand; if this mood of mourning in the gloomy heart of mine disperses and I ever love a woman who has fuzzy blossoms on her curly hair folds dropping on her shoulders, then I shall give this as a gift to her with the following lines: “The clock I had bought in prison and used until I embraced my freedom… I removed the batteries… Because “My heart is a broken clock, and it always stops at you”. Something like this…

***

Walking in this amok imprisonment is soothing. I remember what Sait Faik said: “Leave me alone oh the realities! I want to walk!”, and I throw myself into my ward, which has a length of five steps but an endless spiritual depth. Since I know that “slogan is the ideology of the principle”, I set my mind free and then more free by pulling away from all of the stereotyped phrases. I salute Vonnegut’s advice “think whatever you want, but think something different” and I try to approach the painful years passed from another angle. Even though I manage to confirm my principal stance in the final analysis, I admit my mistakes and deficiencies about the complicated matters such as “approaching the other”, “pattern”, and “government view”, and I make a huge promise to myself, who is purified, made purified, and clean-as-a-whistle. Do not let the pens be sharper than swords. Do not let the pens cut anymore, but let them unite; do not let the pens wound, but let them bind up the wounds; the blood drips from the sword, and if something must drip from the pen, let it be the teardrops for washing away the pain.

***

When I ask “What would you like to eat first when you get out, what did you miss the most?” to the people who are from various circles of belief and ideology, I always receive the same reply; fried eggs. I think it was last year when a military officer, who had spent some time in prison and released before because of the Ergenekon case and had an interview with the Aydinlik Newspaper, told me that he had missed fried eggs the most. I don’t know whether this small scaled public opinion survey would prove how the fried eggs are beyond of any politics, ideology or belief for political prisoners. Providing that it does, the people of this country, who rapidly lose the quality of being a society, might unite around the fried egg maybe, who knows! Let this be my surreal proposition.

***

The prison is just like a laboratory in order to think about the concept of time, and experience the “states of time”. When I was reading the information about the ‘black hole’, which was photographed by the scientists and is fifty-five million light years away from our world with a mass 6.5 billion times greater than our sun, I felt like being inside that infinite darkness. They call it the “event horizon” to the point of no return of the black hole where there is no possible exit for the one inside. According to the theory, the time stops at that exact spot. In other words, the time is transformed into always being “now”. The prison also absorbs the light of the human just like a black hole. Imprisonment flexes and shortens the time, and eventually, it brings you to the “event horizon” in order to stop the time, and transforms any moment into “now” and “exactly like”. According to the people who support this idea, if one can manage to get out of the time or “contact the primeval”, which is interpreted as the “meaning of oneness”, that one can get rid of all the ideas of sorrow and anxiety. Who knows? Maybe the prison takes us out of the time and liberates us, but we cannot manage to realize it!

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Ahmet Donmez
Ahmet Donmez
Ahmet Donmez is an author and one of the best Turkish investigative journalists in exile.
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