Sevan Nisanyan changed his profile photo on Twitter and Facebook to this image after escaping a Turkish prison. Photo: Sevan Nisanyan
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Turkish-Armenian intellectual on a temporary pass from prison did not return at the appointed time, instead taking to social media to announce he had escaped.
“The bird has flown,” Sevan Nisanyan tweeted on Friday, changing his profile picture to an image of a bird. “The same wishes to the remaining 80 million.”
Nisanyan, 61, is a linguist and writer. He taught linguistic history at Istanbul’s Bilgi University. In his writings, “his targets have included Ataturk and Islam, two ‘untouchables’ of Turkish public discourse,” it states on his website.
He was jailed in January 2014 on nine charges related to illegal construction of a house in a heritage site in the town of Sirince, Izmir. He was sentenced to 11 years and six months, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
On his website, Nisanyan claimed he was jailed after using “mocking language” about the Prophet Mohammed in a September 2012 blog post.
“For anyone familiar with the workings of the Turkish legal system, it is obvious that the construction charges are a smokescreen, and that Nisanyan is being punished for his political and religious impertinence, made all the more serious by the fact that he is an ethnic Armenian,” his website states.
In interviews with Turkish media outlets, Nisanyan declined to reveal where he was or how he had escaped from prison, promising to tell the full story at a later date. He told Haberturk that the three and a half years he had served of his prison sentence “was enough” and it was time “to take a bit of a breath.”
Turkey has come under fire for increased arrests of intellectuals, journalists, and political opponents. Rights monitor Freedom House said in its 2017 report on the country that “the government has been able to influence judges through appointments, promotions, and financing.”
Sevan Nisanyan shared this photo of himself on Facebook on Saturday with the caption, “He’s a fugitive!”