Turkey: Three children stand trial for singing a march in Kurdish


Three children stand trial for singing a march song

Three members of a Kurdish children’s choir face prison charges by Turkish prosecutors for simply singing an old Kurdish song, reported Initiative for Freedom of Expression in Turkey on 6 June 2008. An online petition and a ‘civil disobedience action’ seek to stop the prosecution.

Three teenagers, members of the Diyarbakir Yenisehir Municipality Children’s Choir, will stand trial for having sung a march in Kurdish while they were on tour in USA in October 2007. They face up to five years imprisonment if found guilty.

       The accused on their way to the House of Justice. 

The choir consists of 15 children between the ages of 12 to 17, and the performed folk songs in eight different languages – Assyrian, Armenian, Arabic, English, German, Hebrew, Turkish, and Kurdish – during the World Music Festival in San Francisco, California, on 3 October. Among these songs was a Kurdish national anthem entitled ‘Ey Raqip’ (‘Hey Guard’) which was written by the Kurdish poet Dildar (1917-1948) in 1938 while he was in prison in Iraq.

Separatist propaganda
When the group came back to Turkey, all of its 15 members were interrogated and prosecutors filed two different cases against members of the choir for spreading separatist propaganda under article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law.

In the first case with an indictment date of 18 February 2008 six children – Ridvan Polat, Ibrahim Kokel, Servan Taskiran, Songul Metin, Songul Ayata, and Aysegul Caklak – in the age between 12 and 16 years were accused. The second hearing of this case will take place at Diyarbakir Children Criminal Court.

The second case with an indictment dated 3 April 2008 seeks the imprisonment of three singers who are above the age-limit of 16 years. Servan Yilmaz, aged 16, Gökhan Ok, aged 17, and Veysel Mamuk, aged 16, are seeked imprisoned for up to five years each.

This was reported to Freemuse by Şanar Yurdatapan from the Initiative for Freedom of Expression and Antenna-TR in Istanbul. The information about the case was also distributed world-wide in an e-mail news alert by the International Freedom Of Expression Exchange (IFEX) Clearing House.

The indictment from Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor’s office 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 song’ 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.

An old song
The teenager’s lawyer, Baran Pamuk, noted that the song was written by the Iranian-Kurdish poet, Dildar, 68 years ago. Pamuk said: “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 three teenagers who are charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” will be heard by High Criminal Court on 19 June 2008.

Civil disobedience action
Şanar Yurdatapan, the Initiative for Freedom of Expression and Antenna-TR are preparing to make a new civil disobedience action for this case. Their idea is to learn a verse of the song in question, inform the prosecutor and media on beforehand, and then sing it all together – a joint group of singers, writers, publishers, and artists in front of the Justice House.

For further information contact Sanar Yurdatapan at the Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Nacak Sok. 21/11, TR-34674, Istanbul, Turkey, tel: +90 216 492 0504 / 532 7545, fax: +90 21 492 1840, e-mail: antenna[]superonline.com or sanar[]antenna-tr.org

The information contained in this text is primarily from Antenna-TR. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit Antenna-TR.


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A petition has been started under the title ‘Freedom for Gokhan Ok (16), Servan Yilmaz (16), and Veysel Mamuk (16)’: