Poem of a Political Prisoner

Khalil Reza Uluturk: A Political Prisoner’s Walk

One in front, the other behind, both with rank insignia on their shoulders,
They are taking you in chains,
Even though you’re not chained at all.
Put your hands behind you and consider yourself chained.

I’m wearing a shirt, reddened from the fire in my heart,
I often forget that I’m a prisoner.
At this moment, those wearing the shoulder insignia lose their patience.
“Put your hands behind your back!” they shout angrily.
It’s as if I were dreaming and my drowsy mind awakens.
Here all the windows, doors and gates are locked.
Not a single bird can fly through them.
And here the ones
Who were brave before are no longer brave.
Here the sun itself is shaped like a square.
The daylight peers through the prison bars here,
In this K-shaped, four-storied prison of Katya.
This building wants to reduce everybody to nothing,
But here the guard and prisoner share the same fate:
Your hands are chained, but his mind is chained.
They are the ones whose souls are tied with chains,
while their hands are free.
Will this country with its population of 300 million
Be able to break these shackles?
Or to remove the curtain from its eyes?
Or to stop living with empty dreams?
One can tolerate living with fettered hands,
But what about those whose minds are in chains?
Though they travel the entire world, they remain in the same place.
Though they talk all day long; in fact, they are dumb,
Their marshals and admirals don’t equal a corporal,
Lame ones are teaching others to march in demonstrations.
Hey Artist! Paint a picture.
Of this very strange scene:
A free prisoner is walking in front of his enslaved guard.


On January 26, 1990, Khalil Reza Uluturk is arrested as a leader of Azerbaijani National Movement and imprisoned.

Khalil Reza writes the poem from Lefortovo prison in Moscow, a prison known as a detention centre for political prisoners and infamous for torturous interrogations. Originally built in 1881, the Lefortovo prison is named after a friend, Frank Lefort, of Czar Peter I the Great.

Khalil Reza’s books include: “Poem of Love” (Mahabbat Dastani, 1961), “Prestige” (Ujalig, 1973), “Where is this World Going?” (Hara Gedir Bu Dunya, 1983), “1937 Still Lives On” (Davam edir 37, 1991), “Between the Sun and Moon” (Ayla Gunash Arasinda, 1992), “I am the East” (Man Shargam, 1994). Numerous songs have been composed based on his poems.

Khalil Reza Uluturk dies in 1994, two years after his release from Lefortovo.




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