Singing could get you 15 years in jail, if you live in a country the UK is selling fighter jets to

Support us and go ad-free

12 men are facing 15 years in jail for singing. In a country with which the UK recently agreed a £100m fighter jet deal.

In August 2016, the men were arrested in a park in Istanbul, Turkey. They were singing in Kurdish. And they have been in prison ever since. They are charged with using ” propaganda on behalf of an illegal organisation”.

But according to opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, they were just singing and having fun in the park until the police turned up. And their lawyer, Gamze Sariyel, believes their arrest was because they were from a Kurdish area in south-eastern Turkey:

The police came to park and looked at the IDs of them, and saw Diyarbakir as hometown in eight IDs. Police then was heard saying as ‘These guys are certainly terrorists’.

Singing as terrorism

This isn’t the first time the Turkish state has treated singing as terrorism. And the threat of a long prison sentence is very real. In 2015, Nûdem Durak was sentenced to 10.5 years imprisonment. Her sister told Corporate Watch:

[The police] said that she is in the top management of the KCK, the bigger organisation above the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. It is a lie. Everybody knows the names of the KCK management. Nûdem is not a member of the KCK. Even if you wanted to be you couldn’t be. You need 20 or 30 years of experience with the PKK to be a member.

Asked about the real reason for her sister’s arrest, she replied:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

They arrested her because she is Kurdish and because she sings in Kurdish. Kurds are forbidden to speak Kurdish in Turkey. They want to destroy Kurdish culture. They banned Kurdish education and our language.Nûdem has tried to keep our language alive. Everybody loves Nûdem in Cizre. She’s a phenomenom here.

The arms deal

These are just two examples from President Erdoğan’s increasingly repressive campaign against all who oppose him. Since the failed coup against him, he has used every opportunity to crack down on the opposition. Among those arrested and imprisoned are journalists, lawyers, and academics.

But this reality didn’t seem to bother Theresa May. In her bid to appease despicable leaders for post-Brexit deals, May agreed to a £100m fighter plane deal. She stated:

This agreement underlines once again that Britain is a great, global trading nation and that we are open for business.

And according to a government spokesperson, this could just be the beginning:

We would expect this to unlock further deals.


Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) was quick to criticise this deal:

There is a hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy, and the message this sends to those being repressed or locked up for their beliefs is that their human rights don’t matter. The fawning images and uncritical support are not just a propaganda victory for Erdoğan; they’re a slap in the face for human rights campaigners and political prisoners across Turkey.

May’s actions in courting Erdoğan are disgraceful. The UK should not be selling arms to human rights abusers. But unfortunately, as is the case with Saudi Arabia, morality seldom gets in the way of a quick buck.

And while it is May out wining and dining vile world leaders, it is arms dealers who are profiting; who are happy to gloat about making money from bloodshed; and who have factories and offices around the country. But we can take action.

Get Involved!

– Support CAAT in its work against the arms trade.

– Find the arms dealer nearest to you, and take action.

– Sign the petition to support Nûdem Durak, and share her music.

Featured image via Flickr and Pixabay

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed