ARTICLE OF SARAH WHYATT

Sara Whyatt, 8 June 2015, full version at artsfreedom.org.

Turkey: Artists under pressure – a year of trials and penalties

Yesterday, Turkey’s voters headed towards the ballot boxes to place their votes in the 7 June general elections. As the election day approached, threats to the media, both veiled and overt, were in the air. This was not entirely unexpected, given that Turkey’s poor record of protection of the right to freedom of expression is well-known. What is less known is that Turkey’s artists also face harassment and censorship. Like journalists, they find themselves arrested, threatened, dismissed from their jobs and their work banned. They also have to contend with other forms of censorship, such as politically applied film certification bans and being denied essential funding. […]

Musicians as terrorists
[…] In December 2014, a young Kurdish folk singer, Nûdem Durak, went to prison to serve a heavy 10.5 year sentence under the Anti-terror Law. She was among thousands of Kurdish activists and their supporters arrested through 2009 and 2011 in what is known as the Kurdistan Communities Union (Koma Civakên Kurdistan – KCK) case. Established in 2005 by the Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan – PKK) with the aim of setting up its own political system in the Kurdish region of south east Turkey, the KCK trials have targeted Kurdish and Turkish civilians with pro-Kurdish sympathies, although many deny links with the PKK.

Durak herself was arrested in March 2010. She spent seven months in prison before being freed pending trial, which ended four years later in December 2014 with her return to prison. There she could stay for the next ten years. According to her lawyer, the only evidence against her are meetings she attended, and workshops she took part in, none of which could be seen as calling for or actually engaging in violence. Her case is similar to that of other KCK defendants, and has led to rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to conclude that many among them are prisoners of conscience. […]

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