Political Refugees: Dying in Exile

Thirty years after Turkey was last shaken by a military coup, the government is making overtures to some of the 100,000 writers, academics, students, political figures and others who left the country in its wake. Many of them have already left us.

One of the most famous exiles in Turkish history is our poet Nazım Hikmet, who spends 12 years in prison due to his writings and poems, accused of writing to provoke the Turkish Army.

Hikmet flees to Moscow upon hearing news that he will be killed. He is stripped of his Turkish citizenship and unable to return, dying in Moscow in 1963. His citizenship is returned posthumously in 2009.

Another well-known exile is Behice Boran, a sociologist and the leader of the Turkey Workers’ Party (TİP). Following the 1980 coup, she flees to Europe at the age of 76 and dies in Brussels in 1987.

Ahmet Kaya, a singer of Kurdish origin, flees the country for France in June 1999, after he is accused of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In March 2000 he is sentenced in absentia to three years and nine months in prison on the charge of spreading separatist propaganda. Kaya dies in Paris in 2000.

World-renowned Turkish actor and director Yılmaz Güney also takes shelter in France. He spends more than two years in jail on charges of links to illegal leftist organizations before being freed due to an amnesty; he is then sentenced in 1976 to 19 years for killing a public prosecutor. After spending five years in jail, Güney flees the country while on a one-day leave. He dies in Paris in 1984.

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