Listening to Kurdish music cited as terror crime in an indictment in Turkey

An indictment, which has been prepared after six months against 9 Kurdish politicians and activists, who were arrested in Van province in May 2017, listed listening to Kurdish music and wearing yellow-red-green colored headscarf as terror crimes.

According to a report in pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), the office of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) and many houses were raided by Turkish police forces in Van province On May 11, 2017. A total of 11 people were detained in the operation, including Aynur Bağış, Co-chair of shut-down the Inmate Families’ Democratic Law and Solidarity Association’s (TUYAD-DER) Van branch and DBP Women’s Assembly member Miyase Çelik.

After 12 days in custody, six of those detained were arrested over alleged “membership to a terrorist organisation” and “undertaking activities in the name of to a terrorist organisation.” Those jailed have included Aynur Bağış, Miyase Çelik, Ahmet Aygün, Ramazan Duman and Necmi Varhan. Aynur Bağış and Miyase Çelik were then sent to Van T Type Closed Prison.

The indictment for the Kurdish politicians and activists has been prepared six months later. Aynur Bağış was accused of listening Kurdish music, which was defining in the indictment as  “music of the organisation (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party -PKK)”,  and her yellow-red-green colored headscarf amounted to “membership to the organisation.” Her imprisonment was also justified by basing on statements of a secret witness and telephone tapes.

As a reason for Miyase Çelik’s arrest, her meeting with friends in a café was evaluated as “an organizational meeting.” The 9 Kurdish politicians and activists will appear before the court on October 26, 2017.

Meanwhile, Levent Döndü and Zeki Kayar were tried in the case of Özgür Gündem ‘editors-in-chief on watch campaign,’ on Tuesday. Kayar demanded to make his statement of defense in Kurdish via Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS). However, according to a report by Bianet, Kayar was asked by Judge Fikret Demir to bring if he has any interpreter.

Judge Demir asked Kayar “You have been expressing yourself very well in Turkish. Why are you making your statement of defense in Kurdish? The state has granted this right but for those who cannot express themselves [in Turkish].” Kayar reportedly answered “I want Kurdish to be an autonomous language and language of instruction. I have already been tried for writing on right to education in Kurdish.”

Kayar started his defense when his interpreter came. “I am not saying those things to be a separatist. I have been in prison for 25 years. I don’t need propaganda. Like all languages, Kurdish must be an autonomous language as well and the state must support it. Those who speak in Kurdish has the same rights as any citizen of Turkey. Languages must be equal as well.”

Zeki Kayar has been sending articles for 25 years to column spared by Özgür Gündem for prisoners. He had an article entitled “Kurdish of the new comers” where he evaluates young people who enter prison speaking Kurdish. In another article published on Yeni Özgür Politika dated October 25, 2016, Kayar said that he learned that he was prosecuted.

Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians in since July 2015. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges. Currently, 10 deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are in jails including HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ.

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