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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”

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.