"The Athenian authorities were wrong when they sentenced Socrates to death. The Inquisitors were wrong when they condemned Galileo Galilee. You are similarly wrong for subjecting me to torture and prison merely because of my beliefs and opinions. You have two choices: either sentence me to several years in prison or resign from your job!"
These were the last words of my defense in a Turkish martial court after the 1980 military coup. I was a 23 year old author and political activist: indoctrinated, religious, idealistic, daring, naive, and fanatical... The judges chose the first option after the first hearing. A six year prison term was the official response to my two published articles promoting establishment of an Islamic government!
Several lawyers had volunteered to defendme in that trial. They wanted to reinterpret my articles; but I refused such a defense. It would have been shameful and hypocritical of me to let them misinterpret my position in order to save myself. I was going to share the same room with murderers, burglars, thieves, drug smugglers, and terrorists for at least four years. Overpopulated prisons, dark and humid wards, cruel and corrupt guards, psychopathic and paranoid inmates, physical and mental torture. . . All left scars on my young and idealistic mind. During those four years as a political prisoner, I prepared myself as an author to promote the establishment of a theocratic government.
I was directly involved with
and religious issues since I was a first year student in the
Before my prison adventure,
established cultural cooperation between the government of
After my release from prison in late 1983, I planned to continue my college education. But, to my dismay, I discovered that I had been banned from all Turkish universities. Nevertheless, I kept writing books on politics, religion, philosophy, and even poetry and humor. Many of my books, written in a calculated political language, became best sellers and attracted nation-wide attention.
In 1985, I was forced to serve in the military, the military that humiliated and tortured me for years. I was labeled a "dangerous foot soldier" by the generals. Soon after my military service, full of memorable events, I was arrested once again for the first volume of my best-selling book Interesting Questions. I would not give up my dignity by exhibiting the apologetic attitude recommended by my lawyers. Despite my first-hand knowledge of grim conditions of Turkish prisons, I defended my intention, belief and ideas. My defiance cost me six more difficult months in prison.
Meanwhile a paradigm change
in my religious
and political understanding had taken place during my last months in
military service. I began reading of a great modern-day Islamic author
contradicted everything I had been taught--laws and theories which I
fact, been promoting through my articles, books, and political
began corresponding with the author in
I found myself on a
intellectually, morally, emotionally, politically and economically. My
who was charismatic young leader of the same political movement, had
by Turkish Nationalists at 21; scorched by "survivor's guilt", I had
his legendary mission. My uncles and cousins have been influential
over the years; we have had one or two representatives to the Turkish
Congress in the family since my childhood. I was one of a few authors
As I anticipated, my new
created disappointment, feelings of betrayal, and shock waves among my
members, comrades, friends and readers. My father, a well-known and
religious scholar, wrote articles publicly denouncing me and declaring
disowned me. Most of my friends became instant enemies. Magazines and
publishing houses that had competed to publish my works now denied me
to defend myself against an onslaught of accusations. No one dared to
any further work from me. I lost my family, my friends, my profession,
popularity, and security. I was transformed from being a hero to being
in the eyes of the religious segment of
I had to escape. I decided to immigrate to the country which I used to condemn in my speeches, articles and poetry as the Great Satan!
When I escaped from
I did not determine my undergraduate majors after consultation with an advisor or on the basis of arbitrary choices or because of financial considerations. They were the result of self-discovery, in fact, re-discovery. At the beginning of each semester, I used to go to the bookstore and spend a day browsing among the shelves. Then I would register for classes that interested me. Those classes that I did best in directed me towards Philosophy and Near Eastern Studies. During my college years, I worked part-time jobs, and wrote several books in both English and Turkish to promote the reformation of Islam and a Copernican revolution in the realm of theology.
To be a lawyer? It never crossed my mind until four or five months before applying to law school in 1995. How could I have a positive perception of the law? I could not speak my mother tongue (Kurdish) because of the racist law of my country. I could not express my religious and political beliefs because of the law. I could not continue my higher education because of the law. I spent years living with mice and cockroaches because of the law. I was insulted and beaten by the officers enforcing the law. I was a mild opponent, but the law and police turned me into a bitter one. I saw the law as a clandestine tool in the hands of a corrupt government, a government of the elite, baptized by so-called democratic elections. Lawyers were collaborators and pawns of the oligarchic institution. Attorneys were either disguised vultures, or angelic faces of the brutal beast.
However, things have changed
since I immigrated to the
In fall of 1994, after taking a graduate course in the Philosophy of Law and working as an intern in pretrial services in the Pima County Jail, I started considering law. I was fascinated by Bentham, Russell, Miller, Foucault, and Bourdieu. I found that I could combine my philosophical curiosity with my socio-political interests through law. I could use my experience and diverse background to offer original ideas and solutions for certain legal issues. Learning "The Terrible Truth About Lawyers" did not change my mind either, since I was confident of my character and priorities in life.
I believe that lawyers should not confine themselves to endless pages of liturgy. Social, political, economical and cultural aspects of contemporary societies are important components of law. A lawyer should study all those aspects and integrate them with law. I am not interested in becoming a judge whose concern is merely the implementation of existing rules, or an attorney who is obsessed with winning cases for his clients. And, of course, I do not have appetite to add more words to the directive of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on cabbage pricing, which once weighed in at 15,629 words.
As a lawyer with a multi-cultural background, rich personal experience, a creative personality, and enormous ambition regarding economic and political justice and peace for all humans, I continue writing. To advocate reformation in Islam and other religions... To expose the backwardness and disastrous nature of the man-made religious teachings...To advocate democracy and freedom of expression... To advocate human rights, especially of women and ethnic minorities....
Thank God, after years in
exile, my books
are again being published in