#freecandundar and #freeerdemgul

#freecandundar and #freeerdemgul

Belgin Akaltan - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
#freecandundar and #freeerdemgul

DHA photo

“How do you make ‘John’ out of ‘Can’?” Our British acquaintance was teasing Can Dündar about how on earth the Turkish name can be spelled C, A and N while still be pronounced very similar to the English name “John”? 

That was back in 1986, (phew… almost 30 years ago). We, seven young journalists, were in London on a hastily prepared government program. The program was so bad and so badly implemented that it made me hate London (for no particular reason). I promised myself never to set foot there again, and somehow I kept my promise although that is very unfair to the city. 

Our colleague Dündar, who has now been in prison for 10 days, was one of the seven journalists on the trip. I could not find a picture of us together, but looking at my London pictures of 1986 we were young indeed: Slim, no white hair on any of us, no extra kilos, dressed in jeans, so much more better looking than we look today. (Though he still looks very handsome with white hair, by the way.)   

I’m not writing this to brag about how close Dündar and I were, because we were not. But he is such a precious personality, so hard to find these days in the Turkish media that it is unbelievable how easily we waste our treasures. 

We were on the same program for six months back then, but we have seldom seen each other in the 30 years since. I remember very little about our friendship. I remember he had a mustache when we arrived in London, then he got rid of it later on. I also remember that I was in his apartment once and wanted to smoke; he didn’t allow me to smoke but I smoked anyway. There was no lighter, no matches, he only had an electric stove in his kitchen, so I lit my cigarette at his toaster. All this time, poor Can was begging, “Please Belgin, I don’t want you to smoke here. Don’t light it… Oh, my toaster… Now, I won’t be able to use it anymore.” Back in those days smokers were spoilt and thought they had unlimited rights. (I quit smoking about five years ago - the cleverest decision I have made in my adult life. With the wisdom of today, I would have beaten up that young Belgin who smoked at a friend’s flat against his will.) 

He was married to his first wife at that time, I think; I’m not so sure. 

The answers to questions you will not be asking are “no” and “yes.” Yes, I am mentioning a “first wife” intentionally. No, this is nothing negative. I myself am from the “first wives club,” but my husband has not divorced me to marry a second wife: We are both in our first marriages. I hate it when people completely erase or delete their former spouses. It shouldn’t happen that way. 

So yes, Dündar had a first wife. The current love of his life comes after a failed first marriage. (Yes, I’m a little mean.) Or maybe I have gotten it all wrong. 

Anyway, he is a romantic, nice guy, a gentleman, a very talented and very successful person.

We lived in the same compound in London and went to the same school. He was successful in the course and it kind of made me envious. My English was better but he had such good relations with people that he was able to achieve many things that we were not; as is seen in life. 

I remember seeing him once, years later, in the Hürriyet cafeteria. (Yes, my social life is restricted to the Hürriyet cafeteria and Andre Rieu concerts.) We exchanged kind words. He was as warm as always. 

Dündar’s recent letter from prison included his Silivri Prison postal address. I wrote him a letter. You know, the conventional kind of letter with paper, pen and an envelope? A hard copy letter, not an email. (I actually wrote it on the computer and printed it because I have completely forgotten how to write.) I read in the press that Dündar and his imprisoned colleague Erdem Gül were asking for typewriters for their prison cells.

Do you remember typewriters? Will you be able to use a typewriter today? 

In the end, our mailroom clerk Engin told me that the cargo company did not accept my letter. So he was going to try conventional posting through the PTT. 

Here is Can’s address, if you want to write to him: Can Dündar, A-1 / 5 Silivri Cezaevi 34570, Istanbul, Turkey.

You know what, maybe this is more convenient: E-mail your letter to me and I will print it and post it to him. I can’t guarantee it will reach him but I will do my best…