* The drawing belongs to Italian cartoonist-activist Gianluca Constantini.
The Speak Up Platform organized an event about poet İlhan Sami Çomak who has been in prison for 27 years, within the scope of the online Kıraathane Book Fair.
International Pen Executive Board Member author Burhan Sönmez and Çomak’s legal volunteer academic İpek Özel spoke about the poet İlhan Sami Çomak in the second event of the Speak Up Platform in the festival program. Speak Up Platform Coordinator Ayşen Güven served as moderator during the event which also included the screening of the film titled Performance No. 19, Anatomy of Freedom: İlhan Sami Çomak produced by Erkut Tokman and Erkan Karakiraz from the Open Poetry Movement about İlhan Sami Çomak which had been hosted in the Fragmented Identities section of the Borders Art Festival in Venice.
Sönmez shared notes on the campaigns conducted overseas on behalf of the unjustly jailed poet, the outlook of literary circles on İlhan Çomak’s poetry, and the poet’s autobiography to be published by İletişim Publishing. Asking “If there is a struggle for İlhan, I joined in late. I have been involved only in recent years. It is of course İlhan himself who started the struggle. Well, what can we do to get him out? What can we do to make sure his voice is heard and he gets out?” Sönmez also shared information on international solidarity campaigns.
İpek Özel spoke about Çomak’s life in prison, the injustices he faces, how he writes his poetry, his hope, his ability to perceive life on the outside, and his lasting expectation of justice. Stating that visitation was not allowed for months and that finally two visits per month were allowed due to the pandemic, Özel also added that prison conditions were very difficult and that there was a mix of emotions because of health measures. Speaking in detail about Çomak’s writing process in prison conditions, Özel further stated that they had to work for years to be able to Çomak a desk.
Stating that Europe embraced Çomak as one of their own poets, Özel also added that European poets find Çomak’s poetry to be hopeful. Özel also emphasized the necessity of increasing ways of dialogue to explain Çomak more in Turkey.
Video recording of the event can be found here.