Heja Türk in a short conversation with Angelika Stepken (2019)

Heja, you are such a multi-faceted artist: writing songs, singing, working with a theatre group, producing films, working as an actress, engaging in a kurdish cinema collective. On the other hand you studied English literature at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul and received a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia University. What was the reason that you quit your academic career and engage so much in the arts?

When I was planning to go to US to pursue my academic career, I was arrested for political reasons in Turkey. I stayed in prison for nine months. I was in communication with Columbia University and they were very supportive of me. However Fulbright Commission in Turkey was a bit scared to stay behind me expressing that they want to see the end of the judicial process. At the end of judicial process I got convicted to five years of imprisonment and had to go back to prison. I became a fugitive and fled to Germany. In Germany I was granted asylum and made a second attempt to go to US. I had no Fulbright scholarship anymore but Columbia granted me with 90,000 US dollars for Master’s studies. I applied to the student visa with my blue passport (a passport given to the refugees in Germany). The US consulate rejected me the visa because I am a refugee. After so many misfortune I decided to give up on academia and I focused more on my artistic side. Being a kurd forces you to be able to do everything. You have to be full of energy. I approach everything as a duty in my life. It is my duty to tell my story and my people’s story. It is my duty not to be self orientalized by the western eyes. It is my duty to decolonize the kurdish art. It is my duty to address my own people first. I have this perspective and some talents. I dive into any form of expression let it be singing, acting, writing, composing or producing films. Whether I do a good job or not? Time will give the answer not the number.

You have been living in Germany since 2018. How are you experiencing this exile? How is it expressed in your artistic practice?

My first German friend made a compliment, he said: “I wish all refugees were like you: young, beautiful, clever, women, then we would not have any refugee problems in Germany.” Let us say I experience the exile in a soft way.
As a woman you grow up with extreme adaptation skills. You come to a world that does not belong to you. I feel always alienated but this is nothing new. I speak many languages, this helped me a lot. But still exile is the absence of all spaces that you have a memory of. You do not have anyone to ask: “Do you remember when we…” There is none to remember things about you. Artistically this is always a subject for me. I make songs about my exile. Our film Momê is inspired by my own story, how I was followed by the turkish police… How did I end up here? My music video for the song Belki shows my fist movement when I entered Germany without a passport, how I was stripped off by the German police. Our play is also dealing with civil war and immigration. I can say: Exile is a ghost that keeps hunting me in every moment. It is part of me now.