When musician Ferhat Tunç touched down in Istanbul on 13 January 2019 after visiting family in Germany, he was immediately arrested.
“I spent the night at a police station, standing with 80 others detained for different reasons; most of them were from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya,” Tunç told Freemuse.
“I say we were ‘standing’ but it was a inhumane picture; it was even difficult to find space for oneself standing.”
In the morning Tunç was taken to the prosecutor’s office at the Bakirköy Courthouse and presented with two separate files alleging he has organised terrorist propaganda through his artistic activities over the past decade.
After testifying for three hours and vehemently refusing the allegations, he was released, for now.
In September 2018, Tunç was sentenced to almost two years in jail for “making propaganda of a terrorist organisation”. He is appealing the sentence at the Supreme Court.
“I’ve got an audience of millions from different ethnic backgrounds and faiths. They listen to the melodies of living together in peace as well as the freedom and courage required for that life,” Tunç said.
“Even if I’m put into prison, I will continue to breathe the same air and experience the same happiness and worry. Just like a plumber who can’t leave his client’s house without finishing the task, I can never forget the responsibility of artists for the society – neither in mind, nor at heart,” he said.
“I want democracy, human rights and freedoms to win. I also want, of course, for arts and artists to be able to freely express themselves without being exposed to threats,” he said.
“Artists are the lights illuminating the road to civilisation and they must not be let going dark… If we don’t intend to remain in the dark.”
Tunç calls on everyone—include European countries and the US—to help protect democracy in Turkey.
“Turkey is now a country with law and democracy laid aside and dictatorship is reigning in all area,” he said.
“We all must protect the democratic gains of this country. My call to the perceptive, democratic governments of the world as well as artists and human rights advocates is to say ‘No’ to this course of events knowing no law.”
“I am convinced that we can only survive, standing, by spreading goodness and courage among ourselves. This is why my songs are sounds of peace. I don’t believe in letting ‘sleeping dogs’ lie. To remain silent is making one think that all these do influence our mind and soul – and frankly, what else do we have left?”
Tunç is fighting two other cases for allegedly “insulting the President”. The hearings are in March and April.