A Turkish court handed down a one year, 11 month and 12 day jail sentence to Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç, convicting him of disseminating terrorist propaganda through his social media postings, according to a report by the Sözcü daily on Tuesday.
Tunç, who is from the mainly Kurdish-Alevi Tunceli (Dersim) province in eastern Turkey, maintains a politically charged Twitter account with a particular interest in issues affecting Turkey’s Kurdish and Alevi populations as well as human rights violations.
The Kurdish folk singer appeared at the İstanbul 36th High Criminal Court on Tuesday where he stressed that artists should not censor themselves to please any political party in power. “I am defending the principles of art,’’ Sözcü quoted Tunç as saying.
“I am an artist who followed the Kobani process closely. My last album is called ‘Kobani’,” Tunç also said.
Speaking to the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), Tunç said: “Artists should not ignore people’s hopes and grief, but listen to them, voice them and derive inspiration for new possibilities.”
“We have been not so lucky for some time now, but such dark times have a chance to become permanent. I am determined to spend these times speaking, not remaining silent, standing behind my beliefs. No threat will stop me,” said Tunç.
Radical terrorist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) besieged the mainly Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria in late 2014, which led to 45,000 refugees crossing into Turkey. A number of refugees were stopped at the border and ordered to return to Kobani by Turkish authorities, which caused outrage in Turkey’s Kurdish community.
Protests related to the Turkish government’s approach in Kobani turned into nationwide protests in 2014 when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Kobani was about to fall.
The court found Tunç guilty of disseminating propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its offshoots, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), Sözcü reported.
The Turkish government has investigated 430 social media accounts and taken legal action against 344 users over the last week (Sept.17-Sept.24) on accusations of disseminating propaganda for alleged “terrorist organizations,” the Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Monday.
“Legal action has been taken against 344 people and 430 social media accounts that propagandize for terrorist organizations, promote these organizations, openly declare that they are affiliated with terrorist organizations, incite people to enmity and hostility, insult state authorities, make attempts against the state’s indivisible integrity and the safety of society or engage in hate speech,” said the statement.
According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on July 21, police teams under the command of the cybercrime unit have determined the existence of 126,000 social media accounts related to alleged terrorist organizations in the last two years.
The report said about 50,000 out of 68,000 profiled social media accounts that allegedly posted pro-coup messages in the wake of a coup bid in July 2016 belong to alleged members of the Gülen movement.
According to the report, 17,000 of the social media accounts are allegedly linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while a thousand of them are said to be connected to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
It was also claimed that 60 percent of social media posts believed to be supportive of “terrorist organizations” have been made by alleged members of the Gülen movement. The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has labeled the pacifist Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization,” calling it “FETÖ.”