Dedicated to the Kurdish artist Nûdem Durak, imprisoned since 2015 and who fears never singing again, after being diagnosed with a toxic goitre (a toxic goitre is one with hyperthyroidism)
By Bilge Aksu published on May 19 2022 in Yeni Özgür Politika
If you are among those who, during a meeting with family or friends fall silent when the topic veers toward the 90s, it must be because you share the same tongue. As you know, the Turkish generation born in the 80s, seems united in this respect.
The influence of the era of rapid change and television that everyone knew in the 70s and the 80s reached our lands in the 90s. I know people who remember an entire decade in detail, when the topic involves pop culture, magazines, new forms of relationships and new celebrities. Over the years, children who grew up in “western” Turkey, along with iconic posters of pop figures, tazos, chips, provocative songs, still remember the period in their nostalgic quest.
Personally, I am one of those children. However, probably because I came from a class raised in poverty, even if we were unable to see life with rose-tinted glasses, we sometimes clung to this nostalgia. But mostly, when we started taking on our political identity, in our early 20s, there appeared this silence I mentioned above. Because, if the “western side” of this country offered us a joyful childhood illustrated by color tv icons, no one informed us of what was happening in this “other side”. We became aware of the facts through our own efforts, our curiosity ad mostly, thanks to our friends who were not from the west or did not behave as such.
The colonial mindset
During that dangerous period, the most important effort of the Kurdish Movement for freedom involved preserving Kurdish children who were extremely open to assimilation. When these children overcame — so to speak — this dark period and began appearing in the universities, Turkey had not yet stepped out of its period of prohibitions. In the middle of the years 2000, the emancipation movement, dressed in the rhetoric of brotherhood promoted by the AKP government, was only in its first expressions. The TRT Kurdî public chain had only barely begun transmission and eminent ministers, microphones in had, with old-fashioned and pedantic expressions, attempted to announce the existence of a language called Kurdish, a language of which they mastered neither the grammar nor the pronunciation.
Ensconced in the comfort of a colonial mindset, with the luxury of a lack of curiosity for what this culture consisted of, or of the connotations it evoked, these leaders were like the presenters of a strange festival of emancipation, led in an awkward and condescending way. Yet, despite the appearance of the tvs, the prohibitions and oppressions continued ceaselessly in the backgrounds. The Kurdish language, not accepted for statements before the courts, for example, became in the microphone of İbrahim Tatlıses1a tearful and pathetic lament. At the same time, the tongue was still banished during the first four years of primary school in Bakur2. This penalized Kurdish children from the onset of their education. This forbidden tongue, through the microphone of Şivan Perver, lulled the Erdoğan family and Turkey in a melancholic happiness.
In such circumstances, a political consciousness car serve as a life saver. It was with such a political consciousness that it became possible not to be carried off into this festival of emancipation the strangeness of which was spreading everywhere. This staged spectacle did not last in the long run. Given the fact that the Kurdish movement was gaining visibility and support at all levels of society, the Turkish State with its Lord and Master attitude began reclaiming every one of the opportunities it had “offered”.
The regime tightens the noose
If we assess the results today in Turkey, most of the writers, journalists, political figures and artists in prison are Kurdish. As of last week, we seem to have entered into a new phase of this policy of oppression. Activities by artists well accepted by society, such as Aynur Doğan and Metin-Kemal Kahraman were forbidden one after the other. The play “Don Kixot” at the Amed City Theater also encountered its share of prohibitions. Of course, other people are included in this caravan. Erdoğan’s regime, knowing it has nothing but a shotgun for the elections scheduled for next year, is deliberately tightening the noose. The festival is forbidden in Eskişehir, a prohibition against nocturnal music is introduced under the guise of the pandemic and prolonged until 01h00 and, clearly, people are being made fun of when the clothing of well-known feminine personalities is loudly taken to task, when oppositions is loudly criticized, when cultural festivals celebrating posters and graffiti organized by townships are prohibited, when the article about a concert by the group K‑POP is lynched on social networks…
Intellectuals who can’t stand up
So here we are, in one of those periods when political consciousness saves lives. The mentally divided geography of the 90s which I evoked at the beginning of this article seems to show a tendency at dividing anew in the face of these all-out attacks. If, in such a period, the fact of protecting a youth festival turns into a historical responsibility, the same enthusiasm does not appear for voices coming “from afar”. Sollicitude envelops Aynur, Metin-Kemal, at least for those with media visibility, there exists a protective reflex. But we do not see this same emotion, for example, for young groups such as Stêrka Karwan who, in the most recent news, was dropped form the program at the spring festival at Eren University in Bitlis, or again for Nûdem Durak, who has been in prison for years and for whom several well-known “Occidental” musicians have voiced support.
We have a problem in Turkey with an intellectual milieu where people do not stand up, the way Roger Waters of Pink Floyd did, who offered his guitar to Nûdem Durak, along with his open support. The only way now would be to confront the fascist current attacking us, without taking shelter in the chosen ignorance of the 90s, without taking to the shadows, or wandering in the wilderness…
If we pull it off, we might deserve to see Nûdem and Waters on the same stage in Turkey.
Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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