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‘Music can’t be silenced,’ 1,134 musicians in Turkey declare in joint statement amid bans

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A large number of individuals in the music industry, including singers, composers, lyricists, arrangers, music producers and managers, have issued a joint statement against government bans on concerts and music festivals in the country, which have led to outrage in the society, local media reported on Tuesday.

Musicians in Turkey, who represent one of the professions hit hardest by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, are now struggling with bans imposed on their concerts by local administrations across the country under various pretexts.

More than a dozen events, including concerts and university music festivals, have been canceled by local administrations on various pretexts since mid-May in moves seen by many as attempts by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to interfere in people’s lifestyles and to try to force its Islamic values on the nation and have drawn criticism from musicians, actors, bar associations and human rights activists.

In the joint statement titled “Music can’t be silenced, musicians won’t keep quiet” the musicians underlined that the ruling power was “greatly mistaken” for thinking they were the sole owners of Turkey and that they could impose their own understanding of life on the whole society.

“You are not the only owners of this country. We all own this country, and we are in this ‘we all’ as much as you are. …You want the whole society to live as you want, as long as you want and as much as you allow them to,” they said.

They continued to say that open-ended expressions such as “public safety” and “moral values of society” are used as justifications for the bans imposed on concerts and music festivals.

“We all know what these fabricated excuses are used to mask. When a concert is banned, not only the musicians but also all those who listen to that music are punished. Not only that, but you also punish the managers, organizers, sound and light technicians, everyone who directly or indirectly is part of the industry, together with their families, and you take the bread on their table,” they added.

The musicians promised to “continue to paint the world with all the colors of the rainbow” with their songs, folk songs and dances, going on stage with the clothes they choose to wear and singing their songs in the language they want, however they want.

“Art is for all of us. Music is for all of us,” they emphasized.

Musicians have been going through tough times since the introduction of restrictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey, and a lack of sufficient support from the government has further exacerbated their burden.

There are roughly 1 million musicians in Turkey, many of whom work without insurance and so have been unable to claim state benefits since the beginning of the pandemic.

More than 100 musicians in Turkey have died by suicide since the country introduced preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, according to the Musicians and Performers Union (Müzik-Sen).

A midnight music ban, which was introduced as part of coronavirus measures and has not yet been lifted, despite the easing of other COVID-19-related measures, is among the reasons why dissidents accuse the ruling AKP of interfering with people’s lifestyles.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP also attracted criticism for banning the sale of alcoholic beverages in stores during coronavirus lockdowns, with many accusing the president of trying to force his Islamic values on the nation by way of a ban that had nothing to do with the pandemic.

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