Turkey's entertainers revolt against lack of state aid in pandemic: Don't turn blind eye!

Musicians, performers and entertainers in Turkey launched a campaign titled "Don't turn a blind eye" to raise awareness about the financial calamity they face after more than a year of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which they were abandoned by the state to survive without aid.

Duvar English - Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR 

Musicians, performers and entertainers in Turkey launched an awareness campaign titled "Don't turn a blind eye!" in attempts to draw attention to the financial strains they've been facing for more than a year of unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Often thought to be the "invisible" victims of the financial crisis brought about by the pandemic, entertainers in Turkey haven't been granted any aid by the state despite all venues being closed for more than a year now. 

Led by entertainment venue chain Jolly Joker, the "Don't turn a blind eye" campaign urges everyone to stop ignoring the rut the entertainment industry has fallen into and help save live performance venues across the country. 

A public statement for the campaign noted that entertainment events generate revenue for side sectors like dining, accommodations and small businesses, adding that entertainers' fight for survival is a fight for everyone's survival.

"State or public, small or large, anyone can help us get out of this situation. We used to always gather on good days, let's come together again," the entertainment workers said in their statement. 

'Do you know what I mean?'

Separately, singer Hakan Altun started a trend on Twitter where he posted a video of himself cutting the chords of his oud and laying it down, captioned with the phrase "Do you know what I mean?"

Thousands responded to Altun's protest in support, recreating the video with their own instruments and posting the content on social media with the hashtags "Don't let music quiet down," "Don't forget musicians," and "Let art exist always."

"We stand with our musician friends," one social media user said with a video of himself cutting the chords off his bağlama. 

"My friend has my guitar, we'll cut its chords next time," one user said alongside a video showing himself dismantling his clarinet. 

Dozens of musicians and entertainers in Turkey have been reported to die by suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic, often sharing their financial struggles with loved ones beforehand. 

'My hands couldn't play an instrument anymore'

Ferhat Özdemir

A musician of 25 years from Mediterranean Antalya, Ferhat Özdemir had to abandon music during the COVID-19 pandemic as he sold his instruments to provide for his family.

Özdemir started working in construction to make a living at first, but transferred to carpentry when employment ran out in the construction industry. 

"I don't know if we'll be able to perform anymore, even if venues can open back up. My hands are no longer in a state to play instruments," Özdemir said. 

He received limited aid with a campaign called "Music never stops," organized by other musicians, Özdemir noted, adding that any payments from that organization will also end in June. 

Another musician, Aşgın Aydın also said that he sold his instruments to pay his rent, noting that they hadn't made any money in almost 18 months.