Letter from Ilhan, January 2020

Silivri High Security Prison
F9 ALT, Silivri, Istanbul, Turkey

January 2020

Dear friends
During the winters of my childhood, in the times I can most distantly remember, 
we would gather as a family, my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, 
my grandmother and grandfather, in the single-roomed, earthen-roofed house 
we all shared. In this room, safe from the snow and blizzards howling outside, 
after the gas lamp had been put out and before we went to sleep, one of our relatives 
would start telling a story and we would all listen together.
In that darkness, flame-tongued creatures from those stories would leap from the mouth
of the stove and be reflected on the walls. I would squeeze my eyes shut in fear, but
would then open them again as my curiosity was renewed and would listen eagerly as the
multitude of colourful adventures animated themselves in my mind.
I would drift away from the narrative and would create my own adventure within the 
story. My childlike mind would totally believe in those creatures reflected on the walls,
shaped by whatever was passing through my mind at the time, those monsters, trolls and 
giants, the characters in the stories, the fastest tame horses leaping from the sea, strong 
and faithful hounds, heroes fitted with fine swords, deep and dark caves and the 
beautiful princesses. By believing in all these figures, by the power of my childlike 
imagination I grew more solid myself; became more substantial. Good was good, bad was 
bad. I was always on the side of the good!
My imagination grew by believing those stories, but that was not enough and so I added 
something of my own to them. I embellished and developed them.
Now, I am still searching for the peace of those winter nights of story-telling; the 
contentment that was the fabric of the hazy happiness of my childhood; still searching 
for that calm presence that evaporated and disappeared to I know not where.
The contentment of my childhood years and my imagination was enough to ensure that I 
lived my whole life in happiness.  When that peace was lost, the happiness too was taken 
with it. The only thing I have left now is the power of my imagination. 

I have now been locked in prison for more than a quarter of a century, for exactly 25 
years and 6 months due to a prison sentence I absolute did not deserve. And in the face 
of this great wrongdoing I have taken refuge in, and have found sanctuary in poetry. 

I have many reasons, of course, for writing poetry. However, I should like to emphasise 
most strongly that I am in search of the life that was stolen from me; I am seeking my lost 
happiness and contentment. I was a lovely child. I really miss and love the little child that 
I was. That is why I write poetry. For him. 

The fact that my writings reach you and that you make my voice heard enables me to 
heal as it allows me the satisfaction of explaining what happened to me and how I feel. 
In this way I heal and grow in strength. Malice cannot impede the imagination! 
My poetry must be proof of this.
In the stories I listened to in childhood, I was always on the good side. To sum up my 
whole life you could say that 'I try to be good and am on the side of good'. That choice 
has been the cause of the pains that I've suffered but it has been worth it. Let us be 
good! And now it's the turn of those who are good to be on my side. The only way I can 
get out of this bad story is by the power of good, and the strength of those who are good.

If you can have one at hand, please read a stanza or a poem of mine and share it with 
others. In this way you will have reached out with love to that small child, that believer in 
stories that I miss so much. By reading my poems you will have looked warmly into my 
eyes, also.

My heart is comforted by your solidarity efforts. Do not give up on your prayers, please. 
In the hope that we will meet in freedom!
With love,
Ilhan Sami Çomak

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