Remarks of Selçuk Kozağaçlı

 

The following article was published in the April 2022 special issue of the International Review of Contemporary Law, the journal of the IADL.

THE LAST WORD

who may tell the tale
of the old man?
weigh absence in a scale?
mete want with a span?
the sum assess
of the world’s woes?
nothingness
in words enclose?
S. Beckett (Samuel Beckett, from Watt, 1953. Translated by: Suat Kemal Angl.

If Roland could hear me quoting verses written to tease the famous “Words of Comfort” of the Old Testament, he would have answered me with a mischievous slang, which would have probably have made me glad that I do not speak any French.

I agree that old people are sympathetic. And you should feel love for the people who wear their reading glasses when you share your business card with them;I am one those people now. But you should fear those who produce a gargantuan magnifying glass to look at your card. And that was Ronald!

I was in a meeting when I first noticed his last name on the list. I wondered if he was related to the author of the book, “The Share of Law in Freedom and Justice”, which was published in Turkey in the 1970s. At that time – and for many years that followed – that book was one of three or five books available for the people on the left who wanted to read about law. At the time it was written, it was clear that the book was the work of a senior lawyer. But dear Jan Fermon told me, ”Related? I’m afraid he’s the author himself!” And when he said that, I approached Roland -with excitement- and I remember saying, “I want to take a picture with you.” It would have been enough for my Facebook wall if he just gave me a handshake. But no, he paused and said, “Why? Are you an archaeologist?” That’s when my addiction to him may well have begun. Of course, it soon became obvious that the man was not a historical artifact to be photographed, but the chairperson of the meeting I was attending, and he had better knowledge than any of us about the long list of items to be discussed.

Roland was a Thalemon. If one wanted to build a Pantheon of Socialist Lawyers, he could easily carry one of the main pillars on his back. Well, considering his height, the building would be a little off balance, but it would never collapse from his side.

Instead of talking about the many great conversations we had, I’ll just discuss three main influences he had on me, so we can commemorate him properly.

The first one is about the United Nations. For our generation of lawyers, the UN meant nothing. But Roland strongly condemned our indifference to that cumbersome organization that is now corrupt with its boards, committees and commissionerships. Still filled with all the energy of the bipolar world, he used to say “We set it up, we were at the table, it may have weakened, but we can still do business there; don’t give up so soon!”

Secondly, in reminiscing about the Soviet Revolution, Roland taught me about the importance of focusing on that moment of victory against fascism in 1945, instead of the sad dimness of the 1930s, the bewilderment of the 1960s or the sloppiness of the 1990s. Or as he used to say: “Did you say Stalin? Yes, I know him, he was a tough guy.”

Finally, there was Roland’s description of “two deviations.” It was a description that only a lawyer who began his career before the Second Imperialist War could make so plainly: “There are lawyers who mistakenly believe they are struggling by trying to make sense of every semicolon in the legislation and by hoarding a pile of lawsuits, petitions, defenses. And then there are those who miss the deadline to file a case because they are too busy and excited calling for protests and designing banners.”

I continue to believe that all three lessons are extraordinarily informative and they still carry strong messages and warnings.

Referring to those who die young, the Turkish folk poet Yunus Emre once said: “Like a crop reaped before it is ripe…” Such a nice analogy from the times of agricultural societies about wasteful horror and loss. That’s how we felt when we lost Lawyer Ebru Timtik in her hunger strike resistance. Roland, however, was a mature harvest. Now we have to weed it out, simplify it, protect it and process it as food for future generations of Revolutionary Lawyers’ thoughts — just like a harvested mature wheat deserves.

Finally, let me finish with a personal lesson that I learned from Roland. When he found out that Betül and I were in prison in 2013, he asked, recalling Monique, whom he had internalized to be a part of his unique attitude: “How long have you been married?” he asked. We said “Twenty.” “Oh, that’s good. This is just the introduction phase. But the next 30 years are especially delightful…”

Now that we’re approaching our 30th year, Dear Roland, you were right, and I agree. Thank you so much for living long enough and catching up with me. If I’d known your secret, I’d do the same. Although I admit that every time I lined up behind you at the buffets to see what you used to eat to live this long, I was taken aback by the amount you could eat in one go.
That must be enough.

It is clear that my lyricism could not add up to an epic of “ROLAND’S DEATH.” But my literary shortcomings can never change the fact that he died with ‘Durendal’ in his hands.

Roland Weyl never stopped fighting. Neither we will. We shall win.

Selçuk Kozağaçlı
Silivri High Security Prison

 

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