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Erdoğan takes a step back from remarks targeting Turkish pop music diva

Amid mounting criticism, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken a step back on his remarks targeting pop music diva Sezen Aksu, whom he threatened due to the lyrics of one of her songs that allegedly included blasphemy.

“Let me put it very clearly here. My remarks there were not aimed at Sezen Aksu. Sezen Aksu is an important figure in Turkish music. She is a singer who expresses the feelings of our people in her songs,” Erdoğan said in televised remarks on Wednesday evening.

Aksu became the center of controversy, criticism, attacks and threats from conservative and religious circles when she posted her song, which she first released in 2017, on her YouTube channel earlier this month with a note to celebrate 2022. “Pleasure and pain, plans and games, standing tall or hitting the bottom, it is wonderful to be alive,” go the lyrics. “Here we are, on a rollercoaster, heading straight to disaster, say hi to that ignorant Adam and Eve.”

President Erdoğan last Friday joined the people criticizing and threatening Aksu, telling a group who had gathered for Friday prayers at a mosque in İstanbul that “nobody can insult Hz. Adam and Hz. Eve,” using the honorific religious titles, and that if they attempt to do so, it is their duty to rip out their tongues.

Erdoğan said on Wednesday that he used the expression about “ripping out tongues” not against a specific person but in general for people who insult religious values.

Erdoğan’s threats against Aksu, which he made without mentioning the singer’s name, and the fact that he used a mosque as a venue to attack her attracted widespread criticism, with many raising their voices in support of the singer.

One day after Erdoğan’s threatening remarks, the singer issued a statement offering her thanks to everyone who expressed support for her and said the ongoing debates were not actually about her but about the country.

She said she wrote a new song titled “Hunter” with lyrics that openly address Erdoğan, saying, ““You can’t crush my tongue.”

The lyrics were quickly translated into more than 50 languages after a campaign was launched on Twitter by Rober Koptaş, an Armenian writer and journalist who first translated the lyrics of the song into Armenian.

“You can’t make me sad; I am already very sad; wherever I look is pain; wherever I look is pain; I am the chase; you are the hunter,” the lyrics go. “You can’t kill me; I have a voice, a saz [a musical instrument], words; when I say ‘I,’ I am everyone; I have been writing for the last 47 years; I will keep on writing.”

Erdoğan’s change in stance has attracted attention, with people saying the public outrage prompted the president to make a U-turn.

“The entire world knows that you uttered those remarks in the mosque for Aksu. The next day the Communications Directorate made great efforts not to let your words be covered by the media. Those who say [the Chief] can’t go in reverse should watch his remarks [about Aksu] again and again,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy group chairman Özgür Özel tweeted.

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