Turkey: Jail sentence to Kurdish folk singer

8 September 2008


Folk music singer Hasan Sağlam was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment for “making terrorist propaganda” because he sang the Kurdish song ‘Vuruldu Sevdamız Kirvem’ at the Munzur Festival in Tunceli in 2007.

The song’s title, ‘Vuruldu Sevdamız Kirvem’, means: ‘Our love was shot, my kirve’ — where kirve is a name used among Kurdish people for someone who helps a boy during circumcision and usually has a very close relation to this boy, almost like brotherhood.

Hasan Sağlam sang this song at the Munzur Festival in Tunceli on 12 August 2007. The lyrics in the song is a mourning over 17 Kurdish militants who were killed in an army air raid.

Unable to appeal
An indictment against the singer was prepared on 22 February 2008, and in August 2008 the Malatya Third High Criminal Court convicted Hasan Sağlam as guilty. The sentence has not been executed, though, because of a court procedure where the Malatya court deliberately postponed the declaration of the decision. This prevents Hasan Sağlam from being able to appeal the decision, and the conviction from being executed.

At the court hearing Hasan Sağlam noted that he was a folk singer and that “the only way for me to express myself is through folk songs.” He also told the Danish newspaper Politiken: “A year in prison won’t make any big difference, but I see this court case as a strategy for creating fear among artists, a kind of blackmailing for making them keep quiet. By nature I am against the killing of human beings, and I only did my duty as an artist to tell them this.”

Translation of the song
‘Vuruldu Sevdamız Kirvem’
Our love was shot, my kirve

Our love was shot, my kirve
Answer my voice, Mercan Mountains
Could not you hide my kirve?
I’d prefer that death took me and I died
Don’t you have any respect to the visitor, Mercan Mountains?
Mountains of death, Erzincan mountains

Set me free, let me climb up to Munzur
Let me tell my trouble to dear Haydar

It’s not only one wound, but 17 that I have
Our love was shot, my kirve, at the mountain of death

Do not the birds build nests on your hills?
What is your spring or summer good for?
Could not you send a message to my soul comrade?
You were arm in arm with the hunter, Mercan Mountains

Mountains of death, Erzincan mountains
It is not worthwhile,
I will not slander you, Mercan Mountains
Let the mothers mourn,
Ah, my kirve

It’s not only one wound, but 17 that I have
Our love was shot
Our love was shot at Mercan Mountains
at the mountains of death

The 17 wounds mentioned in the song belong to 17 members of the Maoist Communist Party – People’s Liberation Army (MKP–HKO), including some of their leaders, who were killed in an operation at Tunceli. The song was composed in their memory.

About the postponing of the declaration
Postponing the declaration of a sentence means that the decision will not bring any legal consequence for the sentenced. It is legally possible that the court may give such a decision in cases that the sentence is lower than one year (or equivalent fine), that is if the accused had not committed a similar crime before and the court believes that he/she would not repeat a similar crime in the future recognizing his/her respectful behaviour during the hearings.

In such a case, the sentenced is to be kept under observation for five years. If he/she violates the regulations of control during this period or commits a new and similar crime, then the court declares the postponed decision and it is executed. But in case he/she obeyes the rules, then the case is dropped.

It is possible to object such a decision, but not possible to appeal it at the Court of Cassation (Highest level). The first step is to apply to the same court. If the court does not agree with the objection, it sends the case to another similar court. In this case, the objection may go to another criminal court in that region, but not the Court of Cassation, which is a higher court.




Hasan Sağlam


About the artist
Hasan Sağlam was born on 25 October 1972 in Tunceli (the new name for what was previously called Dersim). He began singing as a student in primary school, and also used to sing while looking after sheep. He wrote his first song when he was 13 years old, while starting to play the balgama instrument.

Hasan Sağlam tells:
“I had a childhood which passed by looking at people who were carrying weapons. As we grew up, the load on our shoulders became increasing heavy. News about deaths, smell of gunpowder. First forests were burned, then villages. Our village was burnt in 1994. This was when our journey to exile started. All songs that I have been singing transfers me to my childhood, and the childhood of my father. The execuation of Seyid Rıza. The blood which was bleeding through Lac River, keys of mountains, and exiles.”

Hasan Sağlam started working as a professional musicial in Burs when he and Haydar Mollu founded a ten-person musicial group named Mayıs Türküsü (Song of May) in 1996. While we were running on the musicial life the death of our friend Hasan Mollu was interrupted us.

The group seperated when Hasan Mollu died. Some members of the band moved to European countries, while Hasan Sağlam moved to İstanbul in 2001 where he recorded his first solo album in Kurdish, entitled ‘Vengdais’ (‘Hollering’). In 2003, he wrote and recorded the song ‘Dersim Çığlığı’ (‘Screaming of Dersim’).

In 2005, Hasan Sağlam had his first poetry book published by Ceylan Publish-House, entitled ‘Dersim, Where and How Shall I Hide?’

One of his most recents works is the song ‘Veng u Vaz’ (‘Word and Voice’) published by Iber Music.

About the Munzur Festival
Munzur is the name of a valley in the province of Tunceli. It is considered one of most beautiful valleys in Turkey. The Turkish government plans to build eight dams in the valley to produce electricity. Citizens of Tunceli, however — scientists, actors, actresses, writers, and intellectualls — believe that the Munzur Dams will not support fraternity of Turkey, it will only destroy the nature of the area.

So since 2001 the Tunceli Municipality has been organising the Munzur Festival to protest against the building of the dams, and to create a general awareness in the society about the issue. The festival takes place annually in August, and includes seminar, lectures, panel debates as well as concerts.

About Dersim and its rebellion
On 1 November 1936, during a speech in parliament, Turkeys leader Atatürk said that Dersim was Turkey’s most important internal problem. During the Ottoman period, the authorities had been unable to make the Dersim pay taxes or recognise any authority other than their own. This situation continued in the early years of the Turkish Republic which had been founded by Atatürk. In an Interior Ministry report in 1926, it was stated that it was considered necessary to use force against Dersim.

During 1937 and 1938 there was an uprising in Dersim. It can actually be seen as two different uprisings, separated by a hard winter. The first uprising went from late March 1937 to November 1937, while the second began in April 1938 and lasted until December 1938. Labelled as ‘The Dersim Rebellion’ the two uprisings were led by the local traditional Kizilbash elites, at the head of whom stood Seyit Riza, chief of the Abasusagi tribe. Local intellectual cadres also played a role in the uprising’s leadership, according to one source.

After the revolt which was brutally defeated, authorities changed the name to Tunceli.

Busdriver accused
In another similar case, a Kurdish busdriver has recently been taken to court for playing a Kurdish song in his bus. He was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, just like Hasan Sağlam, and also in this case has the declaration of the sentence been postponed.

Hasan Sağlam


Scanning of the indictment about Hasan Sağlam (in Turkish language):

Dosya No 2008 / 50 – Sanik: Hasan Saglam

Article about Hasan Sağlam’s case (in Turkish language):

Scanning of newspaper article

Antenna Turkey, Weekly Bulletin – Issue 26/08, 22 August 2008:

Politiken – 3 September 2008 (in Danish language):

‘Musik er magt, som stater vil styre’

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