Turkish and Kurdish musicians have signed a petition against attempts to ban the Denmark-based Kurdish Roj TV. The Danish government has been under diplomatic pressure from the U.S. administration and the Turkish government to effect its closure
The Turkish government claims that Roj TV is supporting the Kurdish worker’s Party PKK – deemed a terrorist organization by the EU, United States and Turkey. So far, The Danish Government has refused to close down Roj TV but agreed to investigate whether the content of the programmes is in line with the Danish legislation on freedom of expression.
Broadcasting in nine languages, Roj TV is the only medium by which Kurds all over the world – including Turkey – can enjoy Kurdish music. A fifth of its broadcasting time consists of music programmes.
In December 2005, 57 Kurdish and Turkish musicians together with 77 Kurdish and Turkish academics, artists, and cultural centres signed a petition against the attempt to ban Roj TV.
Also, 56 Turkish mayors from cities in South-Eastern Turkey (where Kurds are in majority) have sent a letter to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen calling for Roj TV not to be closed.
The Kurdish population, estimated at 14 million, is Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, but in Turkey, Kurdish culture and the use of the Kurdish language is still subject to censorship, which is why most Kurds prefer to watch Roj TV.
The mayors in their letter to the Danish Prime Minister stated that “For a truly democratic life to flourish in Turkey, Roj TV should not be silenced.”
Kurdish music programmes
Approximately 22 percent of Roj TVs broadcasting time consists of music programmes. There is a great interest shown in the music programmes “Lorin” and “Avaze Me” performed live from studios three days a week. The weekly broadcasts “Dilanar”, “Keskesor”, “Ruwange Verason”, “Rengin”, “Çar Newa” and “Sevçýra” programmes display Kurdish music, folklore and literature as well as the cultural richness of different nationalities.
The “Sevberk” programme offers traditional Kurdish folk music. This programme brings to light the traditional Kurdish songs which have been either nearly forgotten or are under the threat of being totally lost.
“To ban Roj TV simply for broadcasting amounts to a violation of the basic rights of Kurds to express themselves and to share information and ideas that pertains to their culture and society. It represents a fundamental breach of Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” stated the solidarity appeal which was signed in December 2005 by 134 Kurdish and Turkish writers, academics, artists, musicians and cultural centers voiced the following concern:
“We had hoped that the obstacles imposed on the development of Kurdish music, cinema, theatre and literature [in Turkey] will be removed one by one. One of our hopes was to establish a TV channel broadcasting from Turkey to enable Kurdish musicians, actors, writers and film producers to express themselves. In reality, Roj TV, the only medium by which Kurds can express themselves, is under threat of closure. Nonetheless, we have scripts for television series, music videos, documentary films, theatre plays, cinema films, entertainment and children’s programmes. Under present circumstances [in Turkey], we do not think there are any communication mediums [in Turkey] which would be willing to broadcast work which reflects the Kurdish culture and art. Those who claim that one can develop his/her own culture and speak his/her language are also preventing and threatening the people who want to develop the Kurdish language and culture. The 12th September [1980 military coup linked] regime burned our music, books, films and plays and today’s system wants us to destroy our minds and cultural creations ourselves. This seems to be the only difference between ‘12th September’ and today. If the national channels will not open their broadcast to us, [as is currently the case], and if Roj TV is closed down, our work might as well be burned”.
(Translated and shortened from Turkish original)
Official Danish statement
In April 2005, the Danish Radio and TV Council made an official statement, responding on a complaint from the Embassy of Turkey in Copenhagen over Roj TV, that it did not find that Roj TV had broken Danish law, Roj TV’s programming contained no incitement to hatred of Turkey, and as such it could see no reason whatsoever to stop Roj TV from broadcasting.