Mehmet Selim Çürükkaya (Foto: privat)
Mehmet Selim Çürükkaya was born in a village not far from the Anatolian city of Bingöl in 1954. Until 1978, he studied to be a teacher in Tunceli. Even at college, he was politically active and was one of the founders of the group Revolutionaries of Kurdistan, which later became known under the name PKK. In 1980, he was arrested and sentenced by a military court to 28 years in prison. While he was serving his jail term in Diyarbakir, he wrote a major novel and a play. After his release in 1991, he fled to Damascus, where he met with Abdullah Öcalan. Soon he distanced himself from the power structures that had built up within the PKK and came under attack, caught between the fronts. He set down his concept of a reform of the Kurdish movement in a book (the title literally meaning The Verses of Apo) making him the avowed enemy of the PKK. He fled to Beirut, but even there he felt threatened. With the support of PEN Germany, IG Medien, the UN Secretary for Lebanon and the Red Cross, he was finally in 1993 able to immigrate to Germany with his wife Aysel. Here he met Günter Wallraff, who helped him publish his book titled PKK – Die Diktatur des Abdullah Öcalan (PKK – The Dictatorship of Abdullah Öcalan) with S. Fischer in Frankfurt/Main in German in 1997. From September 1999 to August 2002, Mehmet Selim Çürükkaya took part in the PEN Writers in Exile Program. Today, he is a German citizen and lives with his family in Hamburg. From here, he continues to be published in Turkey, his works include novels and essays. He also shot the Kurdish documentary We Strane Beje (Sing that Song) and is currently working on a new novel. His book Türküyü Söyle is due to be published soon in English, titled Sing that Song. To this day, he faces travel restrictions; hence he could not visit Tunisia in 2012, since his name was blacklisted by the Turkish government. In 2014, Mehmet Selim Çürükkaya discovered that the 1999 warrant for his arrest was still valid; the claim was that he had founded organizations in the name of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) throughout Europe, as well as organized events protesting against the Turkish government, collected money by coercion, and conducted propaganda campaigns.