Selda Bagcan: speech – November 2006

Selda Bağcan has sold albums counted in millions, and she has been accused with sentences that accumulate to over 500 years of imprisonment if they were carried out.

In this testimony she speaks about her personal experiences of music censorship in Turkey. See translation below.

Selda Bağcan took part in the session about music censorship in Turkey, ‘Crossing the Bridge’, at the 3rd Freemuse World Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, in November 2006.


Selda Bağcan’s official home page:
The video was recorded by Mik Aidt assisted by Freedom of Expression Association on 26 November 2006. Signature music: Jason Carter recorded live at the conference.


Selda Bağcan’s testimony
at the 3rd Freemuse World Conference in November 2006 

“First I want to say hello.
I’ve been repressed and banned so many times in my life as an artist. I will list them in order:

1) My first two singles, released in July 1971 – ‘Kâtip Arzuhalım Yaz Yare Böyle’ (Clerk, Write Down My Petition to My Lover) / ‘Mapushane İçinde Mermerden Direk’ (Marble Column inside the Prison) and ‘Tatlı Dillim’ (My Smoothie) / ‘Mapushanelere Güneş Doğmuyor’ (Sun Doesn’t Rise in Prisons) – were broadcasted by TRT many times due to public demand. [TRT: Türkiye Radyo Televizyon, the Turkish Broadcasting Corporation. Ed.]

But then the songs’ themes on prison were identified with Deniz Gezmiş and his comrades who were in prison in those days. And that marked the beginning of an unofficial ban by TRT that went on for many years. The ban became official after 1980.

I was invited to the AKKO Festival in Israel in 1990. And then I was invited two more times to Israel for tv programmes. It hurt me that I was invited two times by another country while I was banned in my own country. I wanted to apply to the court to lift the ban.

In 1992, the news “Selda is taking TRT to court” hit the headline in the newspaper Milliyet and the TRT administrators called to tell me that the ban was going to be lifted. And the ban was lifted. But the bans which the Supervisory Board of TRT imposed on me and my musician friends for many years had decisive effect on the destiny of music in Turkey, and especially on my destiny.

2) When I sang my own composition ‘We Are Shot, My People, Don’t Forget Us’ (‘Vurulduk Ey Halkım Unutma Bizi’) in 1977, in İzmit, at a concert at which other pop musicians were also involved, some groups among the audience wanted to stop me with “Communists to Moscow!”-slogans. And I was tried with Article 312 because of this song. I was sentenced to three months of imprisonment. But it was postponed.

3) This was after 12 September 1980. I was at my home in February 1981 when I was ordered “to come back to the country”. The reason for this order was the news in Hürriyet, the biggest selling newspaper at the time. The news were not correct. It was stated that I had been seen at protest marches abroad that were held against the military administration. However, I had already entered the country on 27 April 1980, five months before the coup.

The next day after I received the order to “come back my country”, I left my home to go to the juridical advisor in Selimiye Barracks, to declare that I was in the country and I presented my passport. While I was answering the questions, my house was raided by a group of policemen. I was released in the evening, due to the date of entrance in my passport and some other investigations.

After I went home, my house was raided for a second time by a police squad who were carrying eight Thompson guns. I made them call Selimiye Barracks to confirm that I had been released. They left after the situation was understood. But I was tried for two and a half years because of this case. And I went to the court in Selimiye once a month.
I was acquitted at the end of 1982.

4) After the order to “come back to the country”, our door was knocked once again on 27 May 1981. A team of civil policemen took me to İstanbul Police Department No 1. They told me they found a recording that belonged to me. There was neither my name nor my photo on the cassette. Obviously it was a pirate copy. I told them I had to listen to it before I could accept any allegations. Yes, they were my songs. They took my statement and I spent the night in a cell.

The next day, while being questioned by the juridical advisor in Selimiye, I told them most of the music in the cassette belonged to me, but that I had compiled the lyrics from poems of well-known poets of Turkey, and the books were in the shop windows even then, and had not been banned. It was illogical that I was inside, while the books were outside. I was sent to prison anyway. I was taken to Metris Military Prison. I was in prison because of Koçero, in the book, whose face I had never seen.

[Koçero is the name of a bandit who lived in Anatolia in 20th century. He is seen as Robin Hood of Anatolia. The poet Hasan Hüseyin Korkmazgil wrote a poem about Koçero, and Koçero’s life story has been documented in feature films and books. Selda Bağcan has never seen Koçero or known him, nor had anything to do with his actions, but even so, she was convicted and sentenced to jail simply because she put music and melody to Korkmazgil’s poem about him. Ed.]

[Video begins here]

The trial went on for two and a half years. I went to Selimiye once a month. Then I was acquitted. I was unable to continue my work because I was on trial all the time. There was no job anyway, no concert permissions. To summarize, I was ‘hungry’. And my passport was confiscated in February 1981. [Selda says 1980 in her presentation, but that was a mistake. Ed.]. It took me seven years to get it back.

5) The joy of my dismissal faded too soon. I was called to Hasanpaşa Police Station in Kadıköy, in April 1984. It was one-way The police told me that I was their “guest”. Another cassette had been found and lead to a new arrest. I was detained. This time the proof of my communism was a folk song called ‘Galdı Galdı’. My arrest rested upon an expert’s report by Professor Sulhi Dönmezer, who spent his last years as ‘apostle of democracy’, but actually had reported many of the 600,000 prisoners as communists back then.

At the first court hearing after probation, the judge asked me: “Why do they bring you here again and again?” and then released me. But the prosecutor objected and got an arrest warrant even before I was back in my ward. I was arrested again, and the trial went on for years. I was back in the halls of Selimiye and the case was dropped due to statute of limitations.
Consequently, ten years of my life was spent on trials between 1977 and 1987 because of the songs I sang.

6) In 1988, my album ‘Drawing Freedom and Democracy’ (‘Özgürlük ve Demokrasiyi Çizmek’) which was the first release of my own company, was banned without any explanation. However, the lyrics were again from published books of well-known poets. Moreover, I had seen ‘Moment Comes’, (‘An Gelir’) the famous poem by Attila İlhan, at the prison library, and composed the song there. Again began a process which took months to clear the album off the charges. In the end it was discharged. But the impound caused an economical crisis which went on for five years.

Today, I carry on with music selling the same albums and singing the same songs at my concerts.”

Translation to English by Doruk Yurdesin

Listen to the music of Selda Bağcan

Unofficial profile on MySpace:

Finders Keepers Records has uploaded five of her songs in MP3-format:

More video with Turkish artists


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