Monday, June 9, 2008

Turkey: Where singing is a crime.

This trial was scheduled to happen today.

Three members of children's choir to be tried for singing in Kurdish

Three children, members of the Diyarbakir Yenisehir Council Children's Choir, will stand trial for singing a march in Kurdish while performing in the U.S. The indictment, dated 3 April 2008, seeks the imprisonment of three children under the age of 18 for up to five years each.

The choir attended the World Music Festival in San Francisco between 3 and 7 October 2007, and there sang a march in Kurdish: "Ey Raqip".

The Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor's office opened a case against three members of the choir: Servan Yilmaz, aged 16; Gökhan Ok, aged 17; and Veysel Mamuk, aged 16. The indictment argues that the children sang with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) flags in the background, and that the song they sang has been adopted as an official march by the PKK. The indictment quoted the defence statements of the children, and said that the children took to the stage in San Fransisco and sang "Ey Raqip" after their teacher, Duygu Özge Bayar, taught them the song in one day because the audience requested it.

The children's lawyer, Baran Pamuk, noted that the song was written by the Iranian-Kurdish poet, Dildar, 68 years ago. Pamuk says: "That song was accepted as the national anthem of the Mahabad Kurdish Republic, which was proclaimed in 1946 and lasted for one year, and it is now used as an official anthem by the Northern Iraq Kurdish Federal Government. However, it is not possible to accept that a poem written 68 years ago is the propaganda tool of an organisation. The founders of the organisation in question were not even born yet at the time the poem was written. There is no mention of that organisation in the song."

The teacher of the choir, Duygu Bayar, stated: "We shared our culture there, at the festival. We sang various songs showing the styles of Diyarbakir. Churches and the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association contributed to our repertory of songs. If performing these songs is separatism, then we are guilty of promoting separatism."

The children are charged with "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and will appear in court on 9 June 2008.

For further information:,, Internet:

Another item from Info-Turk: This is one of the many freedom of expression cases from Turkey just this week.

Diyarbakır mayor Baydemir, Diyarbakır Council’s head of Administration of Accountancy Department Zülfi Atlı, Head of Culture and Tourism Department Mehmet Denli and former mayor of Sur, Abdullah Demirbaş were charged with “violating the law on the introduction and the use of Turkish Letters” and “misconduct in office” over a story book in Turkish and Kurdish. Diyarbakır Criminal Court of First Instance N°.15 set the next trial date as 16 July 2008, at 10:00. (, May 16, 2008)

I have to ask, what kind of absurdity is this? Why should anyone be forced to go to court over publishing "a story book". I have a copy of this book myself. It was published to encourage literacy. The stories are for children, in Turkish and Kurdish. In a city where 72 percent of the population speaks Kurdish, its common sense to publish a book in a language the children actually speak, as well as Turkish, the "official language".

If you published the same stories in Turkish and English, there would be no prosecution, even though the use of English violates all the same laws as the use of Kurdish. The law bans the use of letters that don't exist in the Turkish alphabet. W for instance. A highly suspect and divisive letter. Use it and go to jail. Or at least pay a huge fine and/or spend half your life defending yourself in court. Funny thing though, is that even the Turkish embassy uses the letter w : for instance. Why aren't they being forced into court for "violating the law on the introduction of and the use of Turkish letters"?

All the municipal offices in the Kurdish areas of Turkey are harrassed routinely by the "State" government in an attempt to render them non functional.

Mayors are frequently targeted for prosecution for things that would be considered the usual obligations of a Mayor, that is, serving the community he or she was elected too. In Izmir for example (and although this is not a "Kurdish area" it has a very high population of Kurds, a Mayor has been charged with misconduct for providing free water and other resources to his constituents. This is also from Info-Turk:

Dikili Mayor Is On Trial For Providing Free Water

Dikili mayor Osman Özgüven and 14 other members of the municipal council were at the 1st Court of First Instance of Dikili yesterday (June 3), facing the charges of “misconduct in office” or “abuse of power.”

The reason behind the accusations Osman Özgüven, the mayor of a small town in İzmir province in western Turkey, is facing are the services he provides for his town, foremost among them is the free water.

During his tenure Dikili Mayor Osman Özgüven from the Social Democrat People's Party (SHP) made public buses free, obliged bus drivers to drop students off at their homes, provided affordable health services at a municipal clinic, sold bread in municipal bakeries at low prices and did not charge households that use less than 10 tons of water a month.

In addition to the people of Dikili, representatives from many political parties and institutions were there to support the mayor.

Defending his position at the court, the mayor said that as one of the measures in helping prevent global warming, they did not charge people any water fee up to 10 tons and they charged the whole amount above this limit.

To encourage people, said Mayor Özgüven, they granted pardon for the interest payments of the water fees remained from the past administration. About municipality workers’ 50% water fee discount, he said “We wanted those people who are responsible for bringing water to the town to get their creation at lower prices. We did not violate the principle of equality.”

He also added that the municipalities were elected bodies and determination of the rates for their services was their job and that they simply exercised their right.

His lawyer Arif Ali Cangı said in his client’s defense that municipalities are not businesses.

“Municipality work is a public service. This case is trying the concept of public service.”

After Cangı the other members of the municipal council spoke. The defense lawyers demanded an investigation to determine whether or not the services rendered by Dikili Municipality were municipality services. The court is adjourned for the testimonies of the other members of the municipal court and the completion of the missing parts.

Outside the courthouse, Dikili mayor Osman Özgüven said that their services were going to continue, indicating that municipalities were not businesses, they have been serving the people of Dikili and will continue serving. (BIA, June 5, 2008)

Even more absurd is that the State government spies on its local government officials. Phones are taped, email correspondence and mail is intercepted. Local government officials are the no the only targets though. Again, from Info-turk:
I am being listened, you are being listened, he is listening…

It has been revealed that the Security General Directory has been following all phone, sms, e-mail and Internet communications of 70 million people through a decision of Ankara High Criminal Court Num. 11 which they renewed every three months. Security General Directory stated that they did not “listen” but “watched” by a three month court decision. Under the order of Ankara High Criminal Court Num.11 Security Intelligence Department receives all records of all phone and Internet correspondence in Turkey.

Special court decision needed for "Listening" but mass permission is enough for "watching."

As Vatan newspaper reported that police follows all phone conversations, sms, e-mails and fax messages; Security General Directory made the following statement:

"Just as what happens in all democratic countries, Turkish Police Force too naturally engages in all legal activities to prevent crime in the frame of its powers given by the laws and the Constitution. The referred court decision does not include listening. As known, individual court decisions are needed for each listening. Hence it can not be possible for us to listen the whole population in Turkey. Authorised units apply to courts in order to prevent terrorism and organised crime; if the courts grant permission than court decision is sent to Telecommunications Headquarters (TH). As reported in the newspaper the court granted the permission for the referred application. The court decision was sent to the TH and it was proceeded. Statue 5397 grants such power to related authorities in the fight against illegal organisations in order to prevent crime. We would like to inform the public that the referred court decision does not include “listening” and we believe that such reports distorting legal decisions in a way to misinform citizens should be corrected."

Under the order of Ankara High Criminal Court Num.11 Security Intelligence Department receives all detailed records of all phone and Internet correspondence in Turkey.

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