Foto: Christoph Piecha
Hamid Skif was born 1951 as Mohamed Benmebkhout in the Algerian port city of Oran. After having lived in Langenbroich as guest of the Heinrich Böll House in 1995-96, he held a scholarship from the Hamburg Foundation for the Politically Persecuted in 1997. Later, he became the first participant in the PEN Writers in Exile Program living in the PEN grant holder’s apartment in Hamburg from July 1999 to December 2005. He had left his home country literally fearing for his life. It was not his works of fiction or his poetry that had put him in danger, but his job as a journalist. Writing about torture in Algerian jails led to his own imprisonment in the early 1970s. Once released, he continued to be a vigilant supporter of human rights with his unbiased no-holds-barred critical reporting. For fifteen years, he wrote for a press agency and then founded Perspectives, his own weekly newspaper. He held the position of General Secretary of the Association of Algerian Writers and monitored violations of freedom of speech and press for the League of Journalists in the Maghreb. This prompted death threats and also put his wife and four children in a life-threatening situation. When fundamentalists bombed his house and office, he was forced to flee Algeria. With the help of friends, he was able to escape with his family to Hamburg. Meanwhile, many of his literary works, short stories, novels and poems have been published. A German translation of his book “Geography of Fear” (Geografie der Angst, Nautilus-Verlag, 2007) was awarded the Prix de l’association des écrivains de langue française. Hamid Skif co-founded the Association Alifma, which promotes an intercultural exchange and understanding between North Africa and Germany. After he left the Writers in Exile Program, he remained in Hamburg, where he passed away on 18 March 2011 after a serious illness.