Turkey: Punk band faces jail over ‘offensive’ song


10 April 2007


Punk band faces jail over ‘offensive’ song

The five members of the punk band Deli from Bursa face up to 18 months in jail for having insulted the country’s unpopular university entrance exam in the song ‘ÖSYM’

Deli’s song ‘ÖSYM’ features a chorus of the words “ÖSYM, kiss my arse”.

ÖSYM is Turkey’s central examination board that decides which students go to university, based on a three-hour exam every June

An Ankara prosecutor has stated that it is against the law to insult state employees and will take the musicians on trial on 2 May 2007 in the Turkish capital, Ankara. If convicted, the five musicians of Deli, along with their manager and a former band member, face up to 18 months in jail, although they could get off with a fine or a warning.

Few had heard of the Bursa-based punk band Deli until June 2007 when a teenage fan of the band, identified in media reports and on YouTube only by his first name, Hako, uploaded a video clip on the website YouTube.com where he lip-synchs his way through Deli’s song.

“Let me tell you something:
screw your exam system!”, Hako shouts.

Hako posted it on YouTube just a few days before 1.5 million Turkish teenagers took the much-criticised, and tough, university entrance exam, and the video clip became an overnight sensation which received more than 300,000 hits.

In early March 2007, YouTube was banned and blocked for two days in Turkey because of videos that allegedly insulted Atatürk.

Exerpts of the lyrics:

    It has always been like this but it needs to be stopped
    Life should not be a prison because of an exam
    Three hours, 180 questions
    May God protect my mind

    I have got lost
    You have ruined my future
    I am going to tell you one thing
    Shove that exam

Deli’s 24-year-old lead singer and lyricist Cengiz Sari had this comment to the news about the court case: “It’s ridiculous!” Nevertheless, when Deli releases its debut album this month, they have decided not to include the song ‘ÖSYM’ in order to avoid further controversy.

Cengiz Sari is studying to become an art teacher. He says his band comes from a tradition of satirical songcraft, citing Cem Karaca, a Turkish rocker whose anthems in the 1970s earned him an arrest warrant. Karaca was in West Germany at the time, and only returned home after charges were dropped. Karaca died in 2004.

Bass guitarist Enis Çoban, who studies textile manufacturing, said to the Istanbul-based newspaper Today’s Zaman that “there is more censorship in Turkey than in Europe or the United States, but less than in China or Iran.”

Australian ‘Kiss My A’ competition

In solidarity with Deli’s struggle for free speech, the Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald has launched a ‘Kiss My A’ competition. They encourage their readers to write two verses of a song to a tune the newspaper staff might recognise, summarising the effect of the Australian examination board on school life in the region. The prize for the most interesting lyrics will not be a trip to Turkey but a handsome work of literature in a red cover.





YouTube.com – 27 June 2006:
The video clip ‘Osym’ by Hako

Today’s Zaman – 31 March 2007:

‘Turkish punk song evokes popular frustration, but angers the state’

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