The Arrest of our Colleague Doğan Akhanlı

It was with tremendous concern that we learned that our colleague Doğan Akhanlı was arrested in the early morning hours on Saturday, August 19th 2017, in Granada (Spain). Official sources confirm that the Spanish police were reacting to an Interpol Red Notice, prompted by the Turkish Government.

Akhanlı and his partner, Perihan Zeran, had been vacationing in Granada since August 16th 2017. The police came looking for him at his hotel and took him into custody. In the evening he was transported to Madrid, where he was presented to a judge on the morning of August 20th 2017. The judge decided to release him from custody on conditions of withholding his passport, he is not to leave the country, and must regularly check in with the Spanish authorities. His lawyer Ilias Uyar confirmed today, that the German Embassy in Madrid and the State Department were informed about the arrest. There is no confirmation yet as to whether or not legal counsel for the author will be guaranteed by the Spanish Government. The State Department has called on the Spanish Government not to extradite Akhanlı to Turkey. At present, it is not clear what the author is being accused of.

The warrant is clearly an abuse of law!

We protest Doğan Akhanlı’s arrest and demand that the Turkish Government immediately drop the arrest warrant. And we demand that the Spanish Government immediately grant his complete freedom! The German Government must urgently arrange for legal council. We see threatening developments in these current events and the continuation of a long historical practice of human rights violations. Extradition to Turkey must be stopped! We demand that the State Department, the German Government, and with it all parliamentarians of the Bundestag to ensure that an extradition is prevented and that complete freedom is granted. We further call on these to advocate for the release of all unjustly imprisoned journalists in Turkey, as a vision of living together in a free and democratic society requires a global and collective practice.


Akhanlı is a member of the international writers association PEN and advocates addressing the Armenian genocide in Turkey in his literature. His writings are influenced by many experiences of local and historical violence and stories of extermination. The Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the war against the Kurdish people, the NSU* terror and the racism against immigrants in Germany, as well as the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama in Namibia, have all inspired Akhanlı to be part of developing a “transnational memorial culture, that could create a global democratic humanism”, as our friend and colleague Doğan put it.

Doğan Akhanlı has been living in Germany since fleeing Turkey in 1991. He is a German citizen and only a German citizen. In 1991, he fled as an oppositional democratic activist who wrote and published about the Armenian genocide, and whose life was therefore endangered in Turkey. Since then he was not able to return to Turkey. The Turkish Government does not recognize the genocide in the Ottoman Empire involving up to 1.5 million deaths, and criminalizes any attempts to shed light on its own crimes.  In this context, Akhanlı has repeatedly criticized the Government, most recently in June of 2016 as the Bundestag unanimously passed its resolution on the Armenian genocide. Erdoğan and other nationalists dug for a diplomatic reaction and announced a plan with which they would get revenge on the Bundestag for the resolution.

As a critical journalist, Akhanlı also writes about the repressive and undemocratic developments in Turkey under Erdoğan’s Government. Most recently in March he stood on the stage of the WDR Funkhaus in Cologne with Can Dündar, the journalist who fled Turkey at the beginning of 2017, under the motto “Freedom of speech is a universal right of humanity” in solidarity with the 160 journalists who had been arrested since the attempted coup in Turkey. The event was organized in response to the arrest of Deniz Yücel, journalist for Die Welt, who Erdoğan sees as his “personal prisoner”.

Erdoğan’s authoritarian politics, which are in violation of all international and democratic laws and which have created an autocratic regime in Turkey, have long had an impact beyond the Turkish national borders. On August 4th 2017, Hamza Yalçın a critical journalist living in Sweden, was arrested by Interpol at the airport in Barcelona, also as a result of a Red Notice from Turkey. He has been waiting for his trial in Spain since then. The Turkish government is requesting Yalçın be extradited to Turkey. For the Spanish public defender Baltasar Garzón extradition is “unacceptable” because of the state repression in violation of human rights. The current arrests are not a coincidence! Erdoğan has been influencing politics in Germany for a long time and now in Spain too, with which he is trying to extend his powers beyond the Turkish borders in order to silence those critical voices and those voices that aren’t to his liking around the world. Thereby he is involving further EU countries, in which European and democratic citizens’ values should actually apply, in his repressive regime.

Critical journalists and democratic opponents of Erdoğan are no longer safe even outside of Turkey from the Turkish courts! Erdoğan is abusing international police collaboration agreements in order to arrest critical journalists. The EU member states look on or even support him! We ask ourselves: How can the German Government and the European Union justify this considering their national principles of freedom and citizens rights and the rights of freedom of speech? The European dependence on Erdoğan must end immediately. First and foremost the inhumane, and not to mention ineffective EU-Turkey refugee agreement must be ended!

Our friend and colleague Doğan reminded us in his notable speech at the end of last year ( at the memorial for the racist arson attack in Mölln in 1992, that when we memorialize Mölln, we don’t just think of the attack in Mölln, but on “the history of violence here and in other countries. Which is why we must create a transnational memorial space and make it greater and less possible to ignore (…) if the prophets of extermination and their accomplices announce their return, we must stand up, we who are more, and say: We are here too!”

This is why we say: We are here and we are everywhere! Because politics against authoritarian regimes and antidemocratic politics in the age of globalization and migration is global politics and needs transnational solidarity!

Support the release and prevention of extradition of Doğan Akhanlı and send emails to the following addresses:

(*) The National Socialist Underground or NSU (German: Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund) is a German neo-Nazi terrorist group which was active since the 1990s and has murdered at least 10 people.