Letter from Can Dündar: Tenderfoot in the espionage world

Letter from Can Dündar: Tenderfoot in the espionage world

Letter from Can Dündar: Tenderfoot in the espionage world

A handout picture taken on June 3, 2015 and released by Turkey's Cumhuriyet daily on November 26, 2015 shows Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar posing outside the newspaper headquarters in Istanbul. AFP Photo

The first night I was brought to Silivri Prison near Istanbul together with my colleague Erdem Gül, they asked us what charges we were in on at the first registration desk: “Terror or ordinary?”

I leaned backwards and took a deep breath: “I am a spy,” I said in a serious manner. I fully enjoyed the reaction of astonishment mixed with admiration on the face of my questioner. 

But if they had asked me which country I was spying for, I wouldn’t have known. If I knew, I would have asked to be swapped with a spy of that country on a bridge, but they did not tell me this.  

Worse, there is no proof on hand to show them that I am a spy. According to the verdict of the judge, I immediately printed the document I got hold of on the front page of the newspaper (I am, after all, quite a rookie at spying). The judge, of course, caught me… 

This is the only proof…

Because the justice system works somewhat slowly here, he recognized the situation six months later… Like the violent father at home telling his son, “I am waiting for the guests to leave and then I will show you,” he waited for the G-20 Summit to finish.

And immediately after the guests left, he decided to arrest me so that I could not tamper with the evidence. 

On the day in question, 100,000 copies of the paper were printed; that means there are 100,000 pieces of proof. I need to urgently go tamper with them. 

I made a plan on the first night; I wrote a letter to our spy ring: “Find these copies immediately and black out all the headlines with a marker.” 

 I wrote this, folded the paper into a crane and sent it gliding into the sky. But since I am only a beginner, my letter got caught in the fence. 

Now, I am sure I will be sentenced separately for “trying to tamper with evidence” because of this paper crane that was caught in the barbed wire of Silivri Prison. 

Well, even if the letter had not been caught in the barbed wire but had instead made it to the newspaper, they probably wouldn’t have been able to decode my instructions because my handwriting is so bad. 

In the first letter I sent, I wrote, “They have sent me the red pen I love,” because of my unreadable handwriting, “red suitcase” ended up being printed in the paper. Since then, they have been searching for a red suitcase in my room thinking I sent a “coded message.” 

On my second day, I was sent to a psychologist to be “corrected.” That was customary. They gave me a survey they give to everybody. An elegant young lady and surveyors asked me, “Who encouraged you to commit a crime?”

“My mother,” I said. “She started reading books to me while I was only a baby. Also my elementary school teacher… She taught me how to write.”

“Will you continue to commit crimes after you are released?” they asked.

“It seems so. Look, I am even writing while I am here,” I said.

When they heard that I requested the book “Don Quixote” from the library, I assume they had already diagnosed me. 

While I was waiting in the corridor of the courthouse for the verdict, two veteran prisoners, Celal Doğan and Celalettin Can, were giving me a short course on pacing up and down. Celalettin was telling me, “You should adopt a tempo while walking. The principle is not to bump into another inmate approaching you from the opposite direction.” 

Now, in the small courtyard near my cell at Silivri, I walk alone and make his ears ring: “There is nobody approaching from the opposite way.” 

It is because those crowded dorm-type prisons where walks were taken shoulder to shoulder are gone to be replaced by strict, F-type isolation cells.

You are alone even in your walk. Fortunately, there is a manhole at the center of the courtyard. If you call out there, then your voice can make it to the city through the sewers. 

As a newbie spy, I made my first try after I discovered this on the second day. I leaned toward the manhole and whispered, “Ears of Midas… Sorry, the trucks of MİT [National Intelligence Organization] are carrying arms.” 

Your spy is reporting from Silivri.

Anyway, this much spying is enough. I don’t have enough sheets of paper yet. My “Needs request slips” are about to expire. I need to list my needs on the last page and order them from the canteen.  

I need a small bucket for my Turkish-style toilet, I need weather strips for the door in preparation for winter and I need a mop to clean the floor… I wonder which liquid detergent is the best. 

So, on the same block of paper that I wrote to 28 European leaders including Angela Merkel and François Hollande, I write my order for a toilet pump; life does show you strange things…

This spying business is tough, but I guess it is always better than being a thief. 

Love from Silivri…

I am sure you have not written a letter for a long time. If you want to write one, here is my address: A-1 / 5 Silivri Cezaevi 34570, Istanbul, Turkey.