Saturday, November 21, 2020

Book Nook: God Waits Outside

The movie, ‘Midnight Express’ really coined the term Turkish prison. Since that movie, Turkish prison has become synonymous with brutal treatment, vicious prison guards, and much more. In reality, Turkish prisons are just as bad as depicted in movies earning worldwide condemnation. 

Such a thing happened to Michael Churchward. Churchward a yachting captain had set world records and lived a charmed life until he was in Turkey. He was thrown into a Turkish prison and cut off from the entire world. How he coped and got out is an epic tale that he has written in the new book, God Waits Outside.The movie, ‘Midnight Express’ really coined the term Turkish prison. Since that movie, Turkish prison has become synonymous with brutal treatment, vicious prison guards, and much more. In reality, Turkish prisons are just as bad as depicted in movies earning worldwide condemnation. Now imagine being an American held in a Turkish prison on a trumped up charges, cut off from family and friends, unable to communicate with American authorities and not knowing if anything was being done to rescue you. 

I had a chance to interview the author to learn more.
Why did you write this book? 
I believed that I was finally strong enough to reflect back and put into words what had happened to me. I understood it was a difficult story for my family to hear but the time had come for them to know exactly what took place inside those foreign prison walls.

How were you able to cope with being in a prison unjustly? 
Coping isn't the word I would use in describing inside a foreign (Turkey) , maximum security lockdown. Bone numbing terror, deep deep despair is more in line with what everyday life inside these inhumane prisons were like. But I will tell you the enormous level of embedded anger that consumed me and became my demon for many years after, was probably the one emotion that perhaps saved my life.
What was life like in a Turkish prison like?
Within 24hours, I was taken off my ship where I was Captain of one of the world's mega-yachts, and taken far inland to a Turkish Military Prison called Soke.After surviving the brutal beating and Infamous Turkish strip search, battered badly and bleeding profusely, I was thrown into a cell with 16 other Turkish inmates. A stinking, filthy cell about 20ft by 20ft , bunks stacked 4 high to the ceiling. A hole in the corner of the cell used as the toilet! Pure Squalor!   
I managed to survive this first Turkish prison for two months then they transferred me to one of the most infamous Prisons in the world. Buca Prison in Izmir Turkey was a maximum security lockdown with about 1500 of the hardest, badass prisoners on the planet. I was told later it was number three on Amnesty International's human rights " hit list". For years, Amnesty International had suspected this prison was the site of severe and unspeakable human rights violations. However, Amnesty's relentless efforts to gain some kind of access was systematically denied. In the coming days and months, I would experience that abuse first hand.

How were you able to find hope?
Hope is a really great thing. Maybe the best of things! Knowing my family and friends would never ever give up on me, helped me cling to that thread of hope.The sad thing is , I meant men inside these prisons that had been forgotten, forsaken, and drained of every ounce of Hope.

What was the whole ordeal like?
One year of my life was stolen from me for something I did not do! But to witness men treating other men in such a brutal, vicious, injust , inhumane way, does damage to a person's psyche. Only now am I beginning to understand what exactly happened to me, and the emotional toll I paid.

How did you feel when it ended?
In short, Confused, Out of Focus, and Deep Deep Anger. All of which stayed with me for a long time. A friend once described me walking around smoldering...He was right.

How do you think the experience has shaped your life?
To answer this, I hope your readers don't mind if I take the narrative from my book. Also to explain where I got the title.
This was the darkest period of my life. For whatever the reason I give definition to myself as " before" and " after" this time. In my worst nightmares, I could not have imagined such a place existed. That people existed who purposely depleted the human spirit to such a depth of despair. The terror of becoming one of those lost and forgotten souls existing within these wet walls turned to utter panic when I thought of my mother passing away and me not being able to see or speak to her again because I was rotting inside this hellhole. God and I had never really been that close, I had never prayed before in times of need. When I tried talking to him, my thoughts and words for prayer felt awkward and slightly dishonest. Besides, I thought , " God did not really come into a place like this, he waited outside."

How was life after this ordeal? 
Well, my bad luck didn't end when I got home. About three weeks after I got home, myself, and my longtime girlfriend , a person that was absolutely incredible in her efforts to help me, were on a boat dock near my house, when a gunman tried to kill me and shot her. She survived but was badly injured. I talk about those days in the book and my long journey back and eventually going back to sea.

Why did you decide to revisit this now? 
The single biggest reason is , I felt healthy enough to go back and relive the story again, and with a better understanding of what took place, and talk about it.

What do you hope readers get out of your book?
There is one thing I would like readers to take away from the book. Everyone has a story to tell. I can only hope that perhaps my story might inspire someone else to write their own. In doing so, realize that a person's suffering and despair is relative . My time of despair is no greater than a mother whose child has been diagnosed with cancer.  These emotions are felt by everyday people in everyday lives. They are no less important....

Was writing the book cathartic? 
Absolutely! There is no greater emotional medicine than being honest with yourself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment