Dozens of academics, journalists and human rights activists have signed an open letter to the Boris Johnson and the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Along with 70,000 other students imprisoned by the Turkish state Ilhan Sami Çomak was imprisoned for political and anti-Kurdish reasons. The nationalist ideology of the regime means that they see Kurdish culture as a threat.
The poet was charged with associating with the Kurdistan Workers’ party and starting a forest fire in 1994. Charges which were denied by Çomak and brought against him with no evidence. He was convicted on the basis of a confession extracted through torture and has been incarcerated for 26 years.
Despite this traumatic experience and the attempt to suppress Kurdish culture, Çomak has gone on to produce several volumes of international prize-winning poetry.
The Turkish state’s continual and severe violation of human rights in order to suppress cultures which do not fit the nationalist narrative of the government shows just how important culture and academia is in resisting the state’s authoritarianism.
Whilst repressing Kurdish culture the state also uses cultural and academic prestige to whitewash its own reputation. This case highlights the brutality of the Erdoğan and the importance of the cultural boycott in resisting the regime.