By Daniel Reichel
For three and a half years Fabien Azoulay has been trying to resist the daily violence he suffers in Turkish prisons. He still has 13 years to serve. In his letters to family and friends he declares that he does not know how long he can resist and be able to tolerate other prisoners’ abuse. He – as a homosexual French Jew – represents a perfect target for other prisoners, especially for Islamic fundamentalists. Because of his identity, he said, a cellmate inflicted severe burns on him. His family’s lawyers warned the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron: “Fabien is desperate and his life is in danger”. In France, in the past few days, a real/full-fledged campaign has started to bring Azoulay back home. The City of Paris recently joined the cause by means of a motion, which passed unanimously.
An online petition has been signed by over 100,000 French people, including several figures from the transalpine Jewish world. People responsible for the petition were contacted by Pagine Ebraiche and explained that something is starting to change. Turkish authorities are more open to dialogue thanks to the intervention of French diplomacy and the mediation of the Turkish embassy in Paris. Hopefully, a turning point will soon be reached. “If the Turkish people want to improve things, they have to transfer Fabien Azoulay to France”, these the words of his lawyer François Zimeray.
Azoulay’s nightmare began in late 2017. He went to Turkey to have a hair transplant. During his stay he had ordered two litres of GBL online, which is an industrial solvent also used as a drug. Six months earlier this product had been outlawed in Turkey. Therefore Turkish authorities followed the package ordered by Azoulay and arrested him in his hotel room. “He placed his order without knowing that the product was prohibited in Turkey,” said one of his lawyers, Carole-Olivia Montenot, who has been fighting with the family to obtain his release ever since. A detention decided in 20 minutes by a particularly zealous judge, say the defenders of Azoulay. Moreover and according to the reconstruction of lawyers, the judge who was actually following the case was arrested for corruption the day before the hearing in a context of purges led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “The replacement judge did not know anything about the case. He wanted to play the part of the good soldier. Fabien embodies what conservative Turkey hates. He is a homosexual and Jewish Westerner”. In letters sent to relatives in France, Azoulay described a daily life marked by violence. “Here they are all recidivists/repeat offenders, they are used to prisons but I am not. I do not even know how to defend myself,” he wrote in a first letter to a friend. “They rob me every day […]. Some have tried to convert me to Islam.”
In another letter – reported by the information site Marianne – an awful story is written. “My head sometimes becomes completely empty in the face of the horrors I experience on a daily basis. The latest was a boy who was slaughtered by a group of four Syrians. I found out later that the dead prisoner had made advances to one of the Syrians and that in the name of Allah he had to pay with his life because of his homosexuality.”
Translated by Antonella Losavio and revised by Silvia Bozzo, students at Trieste University and the Advanced school for interpreters and Translators of Trieste University, intern at the newspaper office of the union of the Italian Jewish Communities.