Academics for Peace* signatories Dilek Hattatoglu and Ahu Karasulu will teach ‘Kurdish Prison Literature’ at the Off-university initiative in Germany, hosted by the Institute for Near and Middle East Studies at Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Off-university is an initiative that consists of about 50 persecuted and/or exiled academics and some of them have moved to Germany from Turkey, as a result of the recent political developments and oppression within the country.
Within the scope of gender courses at the Off-university, the works of prisoners Rojbin Perişan, Nibel Genç, and Edip Yalcinkaya will be discussed in online, free and public courses. The classes, which begin on 20 October, are expected to last about 15 weeks.
The courses will discuss the works of the three writers who were born in the 1970s, joined the Kurdish Freedom Movement in the early 1990s, and were imprisoned shortly afterwards, received life sentences, spent their young adulthood in prison and are still in captivity.
Academics Ahu Karasulu and Dilek Hattatoglu spoke to Jin News about the courses.
Ahu Karasulu said that when it comes to prison literature, the common understanding is of works of literature by writers who are in prison or works that are about prisons.
“It’s a bit of contempt, the writers that we will discuss in the classes are good writers. These writers were born in the 1970s and joined the Kurdish Freedom Movement in the early 1990s. Shortly afterwards, they were imprisoned and given life sentences of 780 years. They represent a ‘generation’ who spent their young adulthood in prison. There’s a very good oral history we will discuss in the classes. They write about their lives outside, they write historical novels or oral history. But for some reason, they are not read a lot, they are not known.”
She noted that Kurdish political literature is mostly about either prisons or life ‘as a guerrilla in the mountains.’
“These writers also have a political view in life,” Ahu said. ” However, engaging does not make what they write bad propaganda. When they write, they do not fall into the trap of cartoonish propaganda.”
Dilek Hattatoglu stated that two women and a male writer were selected for the courses they teach, despite the fact that there are few female writers within the studied generation. “Edip Yalcinkaya is not someone who writes by taking advantage of being a member of the oppressive group (men). He knows his place, that’s why we chose Edip. Rojbin and Nibel are both good writers.”
In an interview with Rojbin Perişan, facilitated through lawyers, she spoke about the possibility of writing from the inside out: “I spent 30 years in a homogenous community of women. Therefore, I can write badly.”
Dilek Hattatoglu stated that writers who are sentenced to life imprisonment usually produce works close to their own life story, about the period they were out of prison, but they are looking for answers to the question ‘why were we defeated,’ without blaming anyone.
“Instead of putting the real responsibility on a number of institutions, some people, and finding an answer, they are really arguing – this constitutes the reality,” Hattatoglu said.
Dilek Hattatoglu also quoted Edip Yalcinkaya, who said, “We are writers who have not had the opportunity to reread our work.” Hattatoglu thinks that writing from prison is a difficult task. “On the one hand, it is impossible, but in the impossible, literally good texts can be written with great effort.”
The course can be registered online.
* Academics for Peace is a group of academics that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the southeast of Turkey. They are among the 1,128 signatories of a petition released in January 2016, calling for an end to violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey. In the petition, the signatories were calling for a resumption of the peace process and an end to what they described as the “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples” in the southeastern region of Turkey, where the Turkish military was waging a campaign against militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK).