A supporter of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has been sentenced to three years in prison on terrorism charges for live-streaming Kurdish songs on social media in February, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Wednesday.
According to Mezopotamya, the HDP supporter, identified only by the initials K.İ., was among a group of people who were traveling by bus from Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay to Ankara to attend an HDP congress in the capital on Feb. 22.
During the bus ride, local performer A.E. sang Kurdish folk songs, live-streamed by K.İ. on Facebook and triggering an investigation into the HDP supporter on terrorism-related accusations, Mezopotamya said.
The HDP supporter, who was accused of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization, defended himself in court on March 15 and denied noticing the content of the folk songs performed by A.E. or live-streaming them to praise a terrorist organization, namely the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Dörtyol 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, however, sentenced K.İ. to three years in prison on Sept. 23 on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, Mezopotamya said, adding that the HDP supporter was arrested on Oct. 31 after the three-year sentence was upheld by a higher court.
Kurds in Turkey are often pressured not to speak their native language. Authorities frequently claim that people speaking or singing in Kurdish are actually chanting slogans in support of the PKK, which has been leading an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people.
Turkish authorities have increasingly restricted the use of Kurdish in recent years. Hate crimes against Kurds for speaking their language have also increased.
Prohibitions against the use of Kurdish in Turkey go back many years. Kurdish language, clothing, folklore and names had been banned since 1937. The words “Kurds,” “Kurdistan” and “Kurdish” were among those officially prohibited. After a military coup in 1980, speaking Kurdish was officially forbidden even in private life.