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Shahabaddin Sheikhi


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Born: 2.2.1976
Birthplace: Saqqez
Country of birth: Kurdistan – Iran
Lives in: Berlin, Neukölln

Language: Kurdish, Farsi
Working language: Kurdish (Sorani) and Farsi


Shahabaddin Sheikhi was born on 2nd February 1976 in a small city (Saqqez) in Kurdistan, Iran. His father named him Shahab after a man in his wider family, called Shahabaddin, who was an author and poet. His father wished for his little son to one day work with books and to write etc. This was the only of his father's wishes, which Shahab would fulfil.Shahab completed elementary school, high school, and afterwards the School of Pedagogy in Saqqez and then got employment as an official teacher. He worked for a year as a teacher in a faraway town near Marivan (another city in Kurdistan, Iran).In 1997 he moved for his studies to Tehran, where he completed his Bachelor in Sociology at the University of Allameh Tabataba'i and his Master in Women Studies at the University of Isfahan.On the first day Shahab came home from school, he asked his father, “Why do I lean a different language at school. The language I am taught in school is completely different from the one we speak at home”. His father answered sensibly, “Yes, it is absurd that we are not allowed to learn our mother tongue. Sadly, our mother tongue is prohibited in this country, but if you want me to, I will teach it to you.”Shahab started writing poetry when he was about 16 years old. Back then there was a little literary organisation in Saqqez and Shahab would go there once in a while when there were free readings and he would recite his poetry. It was almost a miracle that a boy of 16 years was able to write poems in Kurdish at the same time that his mother tongue was forbidden in the country. This is one of the reasons why Shahab, with his black clothes, curly hair, and Kurdish poems quickly became well-known and popular. Shahab never wanted to become famous. His first book, which he published when he was 25, he dedicated to his father with a note that said: “I dedicate this book to my father, who taught me Kurdish and life.”Aged 18 Shahabaddin Sheikhi started to write articles. First for local magazines, most of which he had started with his friends himself. He wrote articles about literature, Kurdish folklore songs, literary reviews etc.After moving to Tehran he wrote as a freelance journalist for Persian newspapers. Since he studied Sociology, he started out writing about sociology and societal themes. Back then the reformists were in power in government. The mood and atmosphere was more relaxed and opportunities for free speech and human rights were more available. That is why Shahab began to write about women's and human rights, especially about the ethnic rights of other people in Iran, for example the Kurds, Arabs, Turks etc. who don't have the same rights as the Persians. He started work as an official journalist with Etemad newspaper in 2000, working for the literary and culture department. In addition, he continued to publish various articles in other Kurdish and Persian newspapers.In 2002, he worked as the chief editor for the Kurdish-Persian newspaper Ashti (Peace) in Iran. After a couple of months the newspaper became the best known and bestselling Kurdish newspaper. After two years the newspaper got banned by the government.In 2003, he was the deputy editor in chief of the monthly magazine Goftemane neu (New  Discourse) but the magazine got banned after two months only. In 2005, he worked for another year at Etemad, now in the international department. The following year he wanted to work for Hammihan (Citizens), yet this newspaper too got banned. Instead he worked for the newspaper Shargh (East), which eventually also got banned. After that he wrote for online newspapers abroad (Europe), for example Roozonline, Radiozamane etc.In 2005 the campaign A Million Signatures for the equality between women and men in Iran got started. Shahab was one of the first men to be part of this campaign. His first article, published at the age of 19, had been titled 'Women, Literature, and Theatre', so he had been known for his engagement with feminism.At the same time Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran in 2005. Ahmadinejad was like a smaller version of Hitler or an Islamic copy of 'Trump'. Most newspapers, NGOs, and independent cultural organisations were prohibited and many journalists got put in prison.When, in 2009, Ahmadinejad was re-elected after a coup, almost all the activists took to the streets to organise massive demonstrations against the regime in power. These demonstrations lasted over several months and the massive political movement became known as the 'Green Movement'. After nine months the regime in power finally managed to defeat the demonstrators, and as is happening now in Turkey, thousands of journalists, human rights activists, women's activists, environmental activists, and other people not agreeing with the regime, either ended up in jail or fled …On 4th February 2010 Shahab published a note with the title 'Write on all of my letters, Death, I shall live'. In it, he stated that he never wanted to leave his country, never wanted to flee, but destiny made him be in Kurdistan in Iraq on 20th February 2010. He had already fled, without wanting to. This all evolved very quickly. Shahab recounts his refugee story in the short book To Cut with a Guillotine.At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 he was invited to Germany as a political guest. He received a German travel identity card, a visa, and a plane ticket. For the first year and a half Shahab lived in Rheinland-Pfalz, since October 2012 he has now been living in Berlin.In Germany his second life began. Like a newborn child he had to learn almost everything anew, the words, the language, the ways, and life.In February 2017 a publisher in Tehran published a selection of his poems under the title Die Stadt der hauptstadtlosen Lieder.

6 Questions

What brought you to Berlin? Love? World politics? Or was it a coincidence?

World politics

What do you love about Berlin?

Most of all the nationless atmosphere and attitude. When I am in Berlin, I don't feel like I am in 'Berlin the capital of Germany', in a European country.

What do you miss in Berlin?

Most of all the people from my former life. I don't have a home, so I am not homesick. Home for me are the places, where my favourite people are, although I have now found some favourite people here, too.

What is your favorite spot in Berlin?

I don't have a favourite place in Berlin, but several places, for example Prenzlauer Berg and Schöneberg for the architecture, Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Mitte for the European flair etc.

Would you say you are a different person in Berlin? A different translator? And if yes, in what way?

Yes. I am a person who reacts to his surroundings and thinks about them. Especially the people, the language, and society. Streets, trees, rocks,  and architecture can all influence how a person feels, I believe.

Which existing literary work do you wish you had written?

Too Loud a Solitude“ by Bohumil Hrabal.


Publications in original language

Die Stadt der hauptstadtlosen Lieder

Nashre Dastan, 2017 Poem

Der Traum eines Sterns

Nashre Bagh, Tehran, 1998 Poems-Translation