Turkey sees banning of more Kurdish-language events across country

Local administrations have canceled four events, three concerts and a theatre play that were to be performed in Kurdish in three provinces across Turkey as state suppression of the Kurdish language continues to rise in the country, Turkish Minute reported.

The Derince district municipality in the northern province of Kocaeli, run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), recently canceled an open-air concert planned to be performed in the city by Kurdish singer and musician Aynur Doğan on May 20.

Although Derince Mayor Zeki Aygün said the ban was imposed because the necessary permits for the event hadn’t been obtained, the organizer denied the claim, saying it had applied for the permits. However, the municipality claims tickets for the concert went on sale without waiting for the permits to be issued.

There are widespread allegations, however, that the municipality refused to allow the concert to be held because it featured a Kurdish singer.

Doğan also posted a tweet about the ban on the concert, saying, “We are not punching bags to build your ‘muscles,’ but rather offering opportunities to strengthen your heart and conscience.”

Another event canceled in the city was a theatre play titled “Don Kîxot” that was to be performed by the Amed City Theatre on May 28 in Çayırova, also run by the AKP.

Berfin Emektar from Amed City Theatre told DW on Tuesday that the municipality’s decision to cancel the event was communicated to the organizer over the phone around midnight, with an official telling them they had reserved the hall for the play by mistake.

Emektar said they are faced with an arbitrary decision, adding: “They say, ‘We aren’t banning the Kurdish language,’ but they don’t give us any other reasons for the ban. … They should openly say ‘Kurdish is forbidden in this country.’ If they think they can intimidate us with such ridiculous statements, they are wrong.”

A concert by Kurdish brothers and musicians Metin and Kemal Kahraman that was scheduled to take place in Muş province on May 17 was also canceled by the governor’s office only a day before the event, DW said.

Speaking to DW, Kemal said they found out that the concert had been canceled late on May 16, at which point all of the preparations for the event were complete.

“About a half hour before the end of the work, an official from the governor’s office called our friend who organized our concert in Muş and said the concert was banned. They didn’t state any reason on the phone,” the musician said, adding that they hadn’t yet received any official notice about the ban.

“The government has an ideological problem with art in general and music in particular. Musicians who sing in Kurdish and Zaza are being subjected to this [suppression] much more [than others],” he further said.

The concert of the Stêrka Karwan music group, which would sing Kurdish-language songs at the spring festival of Bitlis Eren University in the eastern province of Bitlis, was canceled, the Mezopotamya news agency also reported on Tuesday.

The Bitlis branch of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) condemned the ban in a written statement, saying, “We are in solidarity with Stêrka Karwan. We call on all music lovers to listen to their songs and support them by sharing them on all platforms, against all bans and obstacles. … Long live Kurdish music!”

Throughout most of the 20th century, successive governments have imposed outright bans on or suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey.

Since an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP in July 2016, the government has shut down a number of Kurdish language institutes, dailies, websites and TV channels as part of a crackdown targeting the Kurdish political movement.

The political and legal assault on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which intensified after a truce between Kurdish militants and the AKP government broke down in 2015, grew even stronger after Erdoğan survived the coup attempt.

The party currently faces a closure case on charges of “attempting to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people.”

Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.

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