Kurdish poet and journalist Nedim Türfent writes to Ai Weiwei, who has sent a postcard to Türfent as part of the PENWrites campaign .
Kurdish poet, journalist, and Honorary Member of English PEN Nedim Türfent was arrested on 12 May 2016 after reporting on Turkish special police forces’ ill-treatment of Turkish and Kurdish workers. Soon after his damning video footage was published, Türfent began receiving death threats from the police and was the target of online harassment. One day after his arrest, Türfent was charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation.’ At a show trial intended to punish him for his truth-telling journalism, the court sentenced him to eight years and nine months in prison, where he remains today.
Nedim Türfent is a featured writer in the PENWrites campaign, English PEN’s international letter-writing campaign in solidarity with writers in prison and at risk around the world. Join Ai Weiwei in sending a message of solidarity through our PENWrites campaign.
Dear Ai Weiwei,
First, I want to say kia ora to your unique and poetic heart. Though I don’t have adequate conditions or opportunities to follow everything you are doing, I know you are doing your best for me. Not only for me, but also for all who are in a quest for justice. I know very well that, as you said two years ago in your interview with the Guardian, when you ‘see people victimised’ by iron fists, you are a ‘soldier in defending their freedom’.
To tell the truth, I heard of, knew of, and met you for the first time whilst in prison. What a pity! What a big shame for me! Two years ago, I read that interview and knew you more. And later, I was informed that you had carried out an act of art for me, in order to draw attention to my situation and my story.
In the most extensive sense of the word, I’m grateful to you.
This is an honour for me. I pay my respects to your solidarity and support. I hope that your voice makes an impact in this long road to justice.
My dear friend, I’m sure you can imagine that it’s hard for me to pen a letter in inadequate English and with inadequate knowledge. I am so excited! Beads of sweat are on my forehead. My little heart is a marathon runner. But I have the big smile of a toothbrush advert on my face. Words are not enough today. I need something different. Something shadowless, like you.
I have been behind bars for years. Not easy for the tongue! There’s no stated date for my release. But know that your hand of solidarity makes my humble world brighter, more resistible, more tolerable. Together, we can overcome this grotesque injustice. Justice. I have been demanding justice for years. But they are delivering just ice. That is all.
Today, if I have even a handful of motivation to compose poetry, or to hope, it is due to you. Without you, I’m nothing and nobody.
With you, I am hopeful, despite everything. I have imagination. I have words and I have friends like you. What’s more, I ‘have a great monster to fight’. That’s enough for me.
In my humble opinion, we share the same dream about the world, and we are aware of the same nightmare.
According to the interview, if I’m not wrong, ‘weiwei’ means ‘future’. So, for now, my great face-to-face meeting with Ai Weiwei will take place in the weiwei. I look forward to this great day.
My dear friend, please accept this modest letter as a token of my deep gratitude. Thank you so much for everything. Or, in my mother tongue, Kurdish, zor spas.
Nedim Türfent is a Kurdish poet, journalist, and Honorary Member of English PEN and PEN Melbourne. He was arrested on 12 May 2016, shortly after reporting on Turkish special police forces’ ill-treatment of around 40 Turkish and Kurdish workers. One day after his arrest, Türfent was charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’. The indictment was first produced 13 months after his arrest, by which time Türfent had already been jailed for 399 days. Of the 20 witnesses called in his trial, 19 said that their initial statements against Türfent had been obtained under torture. Nevertheless, the court sentenced him to eight years and nine months in prison.
Türfent was denied the right to attend his own trial in person, one of many fair trial violations. On 21 May 2019, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Cassation upheld his sentence. His case is still pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
While in prison Nedim Türfent has written ‘Kuş Aynası,’ a collection of poetry. Three of his poems – ‘Let My Heart Give Life’ (translated by Barış Altıntaş), ‘Following the Traces of You’ (translated by Caroline Stockford) – and ‘Prisoners Roaring for Freedom’ (translated by Caroline Stockford) are available in English translation.
Photo credit (r): Sim Eldem, by arrangement with Ai Weiwei’s studio.