Human rights activist: writer Akhanli dies |

Status: October 31, 2021 7:06 p.m.

The Cologne writer and human rights activist Doğan Akhanlı died at the age of 64. He died after a short, serious illness on Sunday night, as the WDR learned from the family environment.

Doğan Akhanlı made headlines in 2010 when he was arrested on outrageous allegations while entering Turkey and imprisoned for several months. He was accused of participating in a robbery in 1989. The city sat down forcefully Cologne for his release. Akhanli had lived in the city since 1992.

Born in 1957 as the son of a teacher in the Artvin Province on the Black Sea, Akhanlı spent the first years of his life in a small Turkish town in northeastern Turkey. At the age of twelve he moved to live with an older brother in Istanbul. He later studied history and education in Trabzon.

Since 2001 only German citizens

He became involved with the communists and went underground after the military coup in Turkey in 1980. From 1985 to 1987 he was a political prisoner in the Istanbul military prison. In 1991 he fled to Germany for political asylum. In 1998 he was expatriated from Turkey because he refused to return to Turkish military service. Since 2001 he has had German citizenship alone.

Commitment to reconciliation with Kurds and Armenians

Doğan Akhanlı campaigned for a reconciliation between Armenians, Kurds and Turks. At the same time he campaigned for recognition of the Turkish genocide against the Armenians in 1915/16. In his literary work he also addressed the genocide of the Armenians and the lack of recognition of the genocide in Turkey – for example in his trilogy “The Disappeared Seas”.

The novel “The Last Dream of the Madonna” from 2005 tells of the case of “Struma”, a ship with over 700 Jewish refugees that was sunk in the Black Sea in 1942. The book was ranked among the top ten novels of 2005 by Turkish critics and writers.

International arrest warrant: arrest in Spain

In 2017, Doğan Akhanlı was arrested in Spain. The Turkish state had had him searched for with an international arrest warrant. Akhanlı was released, but was only allowed to return to Germany from Spain a few months later.

Akhanlı received several awards. In 2018 he was honored with the European Tolerance Prize for Human Rights, one year later with the Goethe Medal.

Mourning for Akhanlı is great

“As President, I mourn the member of the German PEN, as a reader I mourn a great writer, as a companion I mourn an advocate for human rights, peace and coming to terms with the crimes against the Armenians,” wrote the incumbent German PEN President, journalist and writer Deniz Yücel.

Doğan Akhanlı with Cologne’s Mayor Reker

Image: dpa / Berg

“He was a courageous fighter for human rights in Turkey and around the world,” said Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker. “His voice was often low, but his message was loud and heard.”


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