Azerbaijan International

Spring 2004 (12.1)
Pages 34-35

Khalil Reza Uluturk
Free as the Seas

Khalil Reza Uluturk was born in the Salyan region of Azerbaijan on October 21, 1932. He died on June 22, 1994, in Baku and is buried in the Cemetery of the Honored Ones (Fakhri Khiyaban).

He graduated from the Department of Journalism of Department of Philology at Azerbaijan State University (currently Baku State University). He attended courses for two years studying Literature for Writers and Poets at the Institute of Literature named after Maxim Gorky. Upon graduation he worked at the magazine, "Azerbaijani Woman". From 1969 until his death, he worked at the Institute of Literature. He obtained his Doctor of Philology Sciences in 1985.

On January 26, 1990, he was arrested as a leader of Azerbaijani National Movement against the Soviet Union and was imprisoned for eight months in various prisons in Baku, Moscow and Rostov (the notorious Lefortovo prison). In 1992 he was named National Poet and in 1995, he was posthumously awarded the Istiglal Order (Independence).

Khalil published about 35 books (about 20 during his lifetime, and the remainder when his wife collected his writings and published them).

His most well-known 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.

Aynura Huseinova, Aytan Aliyeva and Ulviyya Mammadova all were involved with the translation of these poems, which were edited by Betty Blair. For the Azeri Latin version, see, the "World's Largest Web site for Azerbaijan Literature and Language, " created in 2000 by Azerbaijan International magazine.

A Political Prisoner's Walk

(Lefortovo Prison, Moscow, March 17, 1990)

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.

My Freedom

(October 30, 1988)

Each man is an independent party,
Each man is an independent government.
I will never permit my freedom - my territory
To be occupied! Know this, merciless enemy!

I did not allow my spirit to be enslaved
For chances to travel, to be well off.
To waste my life on feast, wine and paradise.
I wasn't lured by mansions in paradise
Or by the presidium, full of idiots.
Nor was I lured by wealth,
By false medals, by useless garlands,
But only for the freedom of my heart!
I entered the battlefield with only this love.
Just the freedom of my heart!
Even in the iron-barred prison,
In the prison where bloody Gulustan and Turkmanchay
*" were signed.

Probably you can hold back the rivers.
But I am as free as the seas,
Give no mercy to those
Who surrender to the oppressor.

As thunder, as torrential rain and storms
I am as free as gales and cyclones.

I am Earth, circling with anger.
My freedom is my power,
My freedom is for exposing and ripping off
The masks of these inferior people.

My freedom is beckoning the cowards,
To come out of their caves:
See the vast sky above
And breathe the fresh air that they crave.

Could the ones who compete constantly in the milky lake,
Who are dark inside, but appear happy,
Who shrink with fear when subject to the slightest challenge
Who hold back the wheel of the vast train of history,
Who struggle for position at every possible chance,
Could these living slaves understand this happiness?
Understand the immeasurable power
That is housed in my heart, as big as my fist?

If they want, I'll give my child,
I'll give everything I have,
I'll give "the taste of my mouth", "the light of my eyes",
But I will never relinquish my unfettered Freedom!

My father, my brother is my Motherland.
I became absorbed into the air of my land,
My unbending head has bowed only
In the presence of a simple bird's nest.

My Freedom belongs only to that.
Even if I die, I will rise up again.
I wish I could be the Water of Life
For Azerbaijan, whose lips are thirsty.

* "Gulustan" and "Turkmanchay" are the place names where two treaties were signed between Czarist Russia and Iran in 1813 and 1828 after the Russo-Persian War. These treaties resulted in the separation of the territory of Azerbaijan into two parts - the southern part to be ruled by Iran and the northern part by Russia. Since late 1991, the northern part enjoys independence as the Republic of Azerbaijan.


(Lefortovo Prison, March 1990)

Today again the ones
investigating the crime gathered.
They have already prepared the camera with its red shoulder straps
To take my photo - head and profile.

The photographer peered beneath the black cloth
and wiped his eyes,
Focusing all his attention on me.

He pushed the button and said,
"Your photo is ready."

"And now we have to take your handprints," they said.
I replied in my heart: "Here you are. I'm ready, you scoundrel."
And I rolled up the sleeves of my shirt.
He spread black ink on my white hands and ordered:
"Press your hands against this white paper!"
He took them like a skilled photographer,
My handprints.

The lines on my palm
Spread out and cross like railroad tracks.
Probably trains pass by on my palm,
Probably an airport is located on it.

"Here's the soap and hot water
Wash your hands, wash them clean!"

The soap is rose water
The water is hot,
And my palms, the spring sky
I washed the ink off my hands.

"Hands behind your back,"
ordered the guard accompanying me.
I went and laid down on my bed my hands behind my back.
Khalil Reza, you're a criminal!
You can't run any more!

Lanky bald fellow is always strict and quick,
He copied everything from my little finger to my thumb.

I look at my hands anxiously while lying on my bed
In whom can I confide about the trouble of my hands?

My hands are a planet
One is the right hemisphere;
The other, the left.

I look at my hands,
They aren't precious gems,
Nor are they gold.
These hands just write,
They hew stones and labor hard.
They are as powerful as the cosmic might
Circling around the moon and Mars
On their way to Jupiter.

These hands have never killed a single creature,
Never stolen anything, nor complained.
But they've cut sharp cliffs both in water and in earth.
They've produced thunder from clouds, treasures from stone.

You blind invader, now you open your hands,
And tell what you've done.
You've sent armies to occupy my land,
You've entered forcefully to a sacred country.
In the name of Liberation, you've brought slavery.
Lowering my flag, you've raised yours,
Fabricated from blood and poison.
You've turned my sap and honey into poison
You've exiled and condemned to death my fearless grandfathers.
Open your hand and let's see
Who the criminal is.
And who are the innocent ones in this world?
Is that a hand or a claw?

You've brought immense troubles to a little country.
You've destroyed this country,
home by home, village by village.
You've even taken the wool
from my blankets at home.
You've changed my alphabet
to change my direction.
The faces of our beautiful girls have turned pale,
Working all day for you in the fields.
You've sucked my oceans of oil, drop by drop through my lips.
You've caused my broad-shouldered heroes to die in war.
You've fed me with oilcakes
While carrying off the oranges, apples and lemons from my gardens.
The cotton you've stolen from me
Could cover the Milky Way.
The silk threads you've stolen
Could encircle the Equator.

You've robbed Ardabil, you've destroyed Tabriz.
You've ransacked their treasures
Open your palm and let us see.
Who is righteous person and who is the thief?
Hey, you criminal of the planet
Who has invaded the lands
From Astara to Tallin , From Chukotka to Elba ,
Come closer if you're not paralyzed!
Let us see whose hands have created and built
And whose are soaked in blood up to the elbows!

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