Imprisoned Kurdish singer requests release due to multiple health problems

Imprisoned Kurdish singer Nudem Durak has called on Turkish authorities to release her from prison, saying she suffers from multiple illnesses and wants to sing as a free woman once again, the Bianet news website reported.

Durak suffers from osteoporosis and Graves’ disease, an immune system disorder that attacks the thyroid glands. The disease can also affect the quality of the voice. Speaking to her family on the phone, Durak said she was afraid of losing her voice and wanted to sing to the public one last time.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to sing again. I’m frequently breathless, and if I’m released on time I can seek proper medical care. Then I’ll have a chance of keeping this sickness under control,” she said. “In prison, this isn’t possible. I don’t want to lose my voice.”

Durak also asked other singers to show their solidarity. “Artists need to support each other,” she said. “They can visit artists in prison and exert efforts to make their stories heard.”

Durak was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 19 years in prison on terrorism charges for performing songs in her native Kurdish language.

She was jailed for membership in a terrorist organization, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and spreading terrorist propaganda after singing at an event to mark Nevruz, the Kurdish new year.

Durak told Al Jazeera before her imprisonment that “singing in Kurdish is my heritage from my ancestors. … My only crime is creating art.”

Former Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters in February urged for Durak’s release.

Durak’s acoustic guitar was broken by guards during a cell inspection in 2017.

Waters sent his black Martin acoustic guitar, signed by rock legends including Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Pete Townsend, Noel Gallagher and Mark Knopfler, to Durak to highlight her plight.

“We have an absolute responsibility to support her and the hundreds of thousands of others who continue to suffer her fate with false imprisonment all over the world, not least in the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said.

The Free Nudem Durak campaign can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Kurds in Turkey are often pressured not to speak their native language. Authorities frequently claim that people speaking in Kurdish are actually chanting slogans in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been leading an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people.

Turkish authorities have increasingly restricted the use of Kurdish in recent years. Hate crimes against Kurds for speaking their language have also increased.

Prohibitions against the use of Kurdish in Turkey go back many years. Kurdish language, clothing, folklore, and names had been banned since 1937. The words “Kurds,” “Kurdistan” and “Kurdish” were among those officially prohibited. After a military coup in 1980, speaking Kurdish was officially forbidden even in private life.

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