Remembering Nazım Hikmet Ran
June 3 was the 57th anniversary of the death of Nazım Hikmet Ran. If for nothing else, “The Epic of the Liberation War” might suffice to consider Nazım as one of the greatest people of literature this soil has ever raised.
Turkey’s recent history testifies just the opposite, but still reading “share everything except the lips of the beloved” in Nazım’s famous epic poem, “Şeyh Bedrettin,” was so important in the mental raising of many generations in this country.
Similarly, was it possible not to be influenced by Nazım’s “Plea?”
“This country, shaped like the head of a mare; Coming full gallop from far-off Asia; Stretching into the Mediterranean; This country is ours.
Bloody wrists, clenched teeth, bare feet; Land like a precious silk carpet; This hell, this paradise is ours.
Let the doors that belong to others remain shut; Let them never open again; Do away with the enslaving of man by man; This plea is ours.
To live! Alone like a tree alone and free; Like a forest in brotherhood; This yearning is ours.”
It was 1951. Adnan Menderes of the Democrat Party (DP) had been the prime minister of the country for about a year after decades of single-party rule by the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Not only had Turkey moved to become a pluralistic democracy with its 1950 elections, but a general amnesty that year also resulted in the release in Nazım, the communist poet who wrote the best-ever epic on the Turkish War of Liberation, “The Epic of the Liberation War.”
Nazım had been in prison since 1938, coincidentally also the year that modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, passed away.
Nazım had been serving a 28.4-year sentence for inciting the military to revolt. He had not incited the military to revolt, but that was the conviction demanded and imposed at the time.
Nazım was 48 when he was discharged from prison. He was still facing charges that he was a member of the then-banned Communist Party.
As there is now, there was conscription in the country, and military service was a duty for all male Turks. At the age of 48, Nazım was asked to join the military.
With his health making him unsuitable for conscription and him tired of the judicial investigations against him – particularly the notorious Articles 141 and 142 of the former Penal Code that stipulated penalties against both communist or fascist propaganda and attempts to replace the country’s democratic order with a communist or fascist dictatorship – Nazım left the country secretly for self-imposed exile in the Soviet Union.
The Council of Ministers, meeting under the chairmanship of Menderes on July 25, 1951 decided to strip Nazım of his Turkish citizenship.
For years, many people have wondered and even tried to exert pressure to make Nazım’s family agree to bring back his remains from Moscow and bury him under an oak tree in a village in accordance with his will.
What would have changed if his remains had been brought home? Nazım has a huge place in the hearts and minds of not only Turks, but progressive and humanist people all over the world.
Yet, thanks to all the efforts, and the government of 2009, a disgrace to the biggest master of the Turkish language, to a poet who best described the War of Liberation and to a man who proved his love for this country and nation with his volumes of poetry, came to an end 45 years after his death. On Jan. 5, 2009, the Turkish government decided to restore Nazım’s Turkish citizenship.
Times have changed, concepts have changed and even diehard conservatives have started to use his poems in political rhetoric, but it took 58 years to eradicate a shame and restore the citizenship of Turkey’s master poet.