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Even before the wave has ebbed on “Sezen Aksu” the Sedef Kabaş affair has arrived to latch onto it. Rather than commenting on the economic crisis in this beginning of the year 2022, the media under regime orders, the various institutions benefiting from the corruption, the fringes of bigoted and nationalist parties prefer giving into polemics and rushing out to defend Erdoğan and the “religious foundations of Turkey”.

The stench of an end of regime is spreading, although nothing is settled in advance concerning possible elections constantly being evoked while the ongoing prohibition procedures against the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) appear mired and opposition “personalities” pop up all over the nationalist camp. The regime is not yet shaken by all this, and the gap persists between public opinion and the reality of an opposition. Under those conditions, it is so much more advantageous to launch yet another witch hunt against presumed opponents, rather than exposing the rifts further.

It all started with Sezen, a sexagenarian diva nicknamed “tiny piaf” (in reference to the great French Edith Piaf) who posted on her youTube account new year wishes with the clip of one of her songs from 2017. “Şahane Bir Şey Yaşamak” (How wonderful to be alive). “With pains and sufferings, how wonderful to be alive, to rise up  and sink to the depths, to build challenges out of a thousand reasons”, say the lyrics. “Here we are, on the roller coaster, on the road to the Apocalypse, please salute ignorant Adam and Eve”… Purportedly, with these words, Sezen is insulting the biblical Adam and Eve. We should specify that in Islam, Adam is considered one of the prophets and, consequently, since she was born from one of his ribs, Eve rises to the status of a saint…

This is how a song can create a “scandal” and have it explode on social networks and cover headlines in the papers, while the country is asphyxiated by economic, political, sanitary problems and the cauldron bubbles with corruption, elections, coercion… This is how a song written five years ago and which had not triggered any craze to speak of upon its release – in fact it had been rather ignored – how it can now occupy the headlines in this new Turkey where journalists, politicians, writers, lawyers, students fill the prisons. In passing, only in the last three months of 2021, 203 journalists were brought before the judges in 98 trials and 18 of them were sentenced to prison. (Full report in Turkish).

The clash occurred between the wave of hatred against Sezen, under the hashtag “Sezen stay in your place” and the solidarity expressed under “Sezen is not alone”… Comments and declarations raged for several days, and each of the political tendencies, including the Directorate for religious matters (Diyanet) shot off their declarations… There was even a gathering of some twenty people in front of the diva’s home in Istanbul’s Beykoz neighbourhood, people belonging to a nationalist organization known for this type of action and for its loyalty to the Minister of the Interior, Süleyman Soylu. “We carry on our struggle against those who insult our national values and our religion” declared the angry demonstrators… There was even a complaint lodged against Sezen in Ankara by a group of lawyers, for “insult to religious values”, under article 216/3 of the Turkish penal code, sanctioning “public damage to religious values”. A complaint filed under this article can justify an imprisonment of 6 months to one year… The Director of RTÜK, the agency responsible for the surveillance of Turkish audiovisual activities, personally announced that the song in question would henceforth be banned from television and radios.

Two days ago, Reis Erdoğan in person spoke up, following the Friday prayer at the gigantic mosque built on the hill of Çamlıca in Istanbul, like an edifice to the glory of religious sovereignty: “No one can stick out their tongue at our holy prophet Adam” he said. “It is our duty to rip out those offensive tongues when necessary. No one can stick out their tongue at our mother Eve. It is our duty to show them there are limits.”

It is in this atmosphere that the witch hunt then extends to Sedef Kabaş.

sedef kabas twittAt 2 AM in the night of January 20 to 21, the journalist was arrested at her home by the police. The urgency must have been great indeed for them not to wait for the light of day and a convocation to the commissariat. Her crime ? “Insulting the president”. Sedef Kabaş would have insulted the president by quoting a Circassian proverb during a TV program and also tweeting it: “If the ox ascends to the throne, the ox will not become Sultan, the palace will become a stable”. The TV station on which the journalist was seen is also under investigation by the RTÜK.

Thus, it is because of a timeless fable in which an ox-king wants to drink up the pond and reign over the world, and who takes hostage an entire forest, that the police knocks at the door before dawn…

Neither Sedef Kabaş nor Sezen Aksu, each in her domain, are   exactly known as figureheads of the protest movement in Turkey…

The moral to this tale: Erdoğan and his regime have nothing left to say. They can provide no answers to the questions concerning their practices, their economic, social, interior, external policies, their immersion in corruption up to their necks, their abandonment of the youth despite it being the country’s future, their only remaining means of defence being to ensure that no one speaks. Perhaps censorship, intimidation, threats do not work as well as they would like, for there are growing numbers of people who, sensing that the country is touching rock bottom, say “when you’re screwed this bad, you might as well speak up.” It is thus time to “rip out tongues.”

Were these two personalities total unknown for Eve and Adam, this campaign of intimidation would not carry such symbolic weight. It has been going on for close to a week. At Kedistan, we don’t usually rush to comment this type of “polemical” click-bait material.   This is why we have waited for this absurd wrangle to reveal itself in its full splendour, for what it is: a simple whiff given off by the end of a reign, one with unpredictable endings for better or worse, since all real alternatives have been subjected to the steam roller of repression, and civil society is fully taken up with its social survival. 

Addition on January 22 2022

Sezen Aksu answers the controversy in her own way…

“I wrote these verses last night, January 21 2022”

HUNTER
You cannot upset me
I’m already sad
Everywhere I look, suffering
Everywhere I look, suffering
I am a prey you are a hunter
So go ahead and shoot…
You cannot take hold of me
You cannot oppress my tongue
Everywhere I look, suffering
Everywhere I look, suffering
Who is the traveller, who is the inn-owner?
Wait and see…
You cannot kill me
My voice is my own, my word, my instrument
If I say “me”, I am “everyone”

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Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Lila Montana
REDACTION | Journaliste
Voyageuse, photographe, journaliste. Libertaire, féministe, activiste têtue et déterminée.
Traveller, photographer, journalist. Libertarian, feminist, stubborn and determined activist.