Always a Turk

Communist sympathies: in 1951 that was something that could result in your Turkish citizenship being taken away from you. And for decades it was why Nazim Hikmet, one of Turkey’s most famous poets, could not get his citizenship back, not even after his death in 1963. But now the time seems to have come: Hikmet will get his Turkish citizenship back, the official decree is being prepared. When everything is settled, the next of kin can decide whether they want to finally lay him to rest under a tree in an Anatolian village, as Hikmet wished. At the moment he is buried in Moscow, where he died in exile after fleeing Turkey following years of imprisonment. It is definitely a beautiful gesture of Turkey to give citizenship back to one of its most famous sons – it was tried several times before, but always failed, largely due to right-wing groups who still reject him and his legacy. On the other hand, Nazim Hikmet never stopped being a Turk, in spite of being stripped of his citizenship. Worldwide he is famous as a Turkish poet, and even in Turkey generations still grow up with his very accessible poetry. Coincidentally I’m carrying this anthology around with me these days, and enjoy reading it on the boat, in a bus or in a coffee house. Hikmet’s work is also about Turkey – and about love, about imprisonment, about unemployment and factory labour, about freedom, about life and death. Being a Turk was part of his identity, and no state decision could ever take that away from him.

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