Turkish court sentences Kurdish singer to prison over 'Kurdistan' remark in song

An Istanbul court has sentenced Kurdish singer Veysi Ermiş to one year and six months in prison on terrorism charges for using the “Kurdistan” word in one of his songs. The court board deferred Ermiş's sentence, saying that they were “forgiving him for once.”

Duvar English

A Turkish court has sentenced Kurdish singer Veysi Ermiş to one year and six months in prison for using the “Kurdistan” word in one of his songs. The chief judge told Ermiş that they were “forgiving him for once for having a clean criminal record” and were deferring his sentence, Mesopotamia news agency reported on Nov. 11.

The deferral of the sentence means that the person on trial does not go to prison unless they commit an offense within the next five years.

The first hearing of the case into Ermiş, one of the singers of Mesopotamia Culture Centre, was overseen at the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court on Nov. 11. Ermiş was accused of “making terrorism propaganda” over his Kurdish songs.

The court asked Ermiş if he had participated in Newroz celebrations, to which the Kurdish singer said it was not a crime to attend these celebrations. Ermiş said that he was being prosecuted not over songs he sang at the Newroz, but instead over flags and posters unfurled at the celebration areas.

Ermiş's lawyer İrfan Arasan also addressed the court, saying: “We are not accepting the accusations, among which is that using the word 'Kurdistan' is a crime and constitutes as propaganda for the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party]. The word was also being used before the PKK and does not constitute a crime."

“There are also accusations on the basis of posters unfurled at rallies in which he [Ermiş] participated and sang. These cannot be topics of accusation,” the lawyer said.

Arasan also recalled that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had recently paid a visit to the southeastern province of Batman where he was welcomed with the song “Batmanê Batmanê” in which there is a phrase of “Batman is Kurdistan's rose.”

The chief judge alleged that Ermiş had committed a crime on the grounds that some of the songs he sang included the words “guerilla” and “Kurdistan.”

“We are forgiving you for once because your criminal record is clean. When we say 'forgiving,' we mean that we are deferring the sentence. You can sing Kurdish songs but for example, if you say 'guerilla,' then you are praising the PKK. Got it? You can sing; Kurdish is not forbidden. There is even a TRT Şeş,” the chief judge said, referring to the Kurdish-language TV channel.

“We are not accepting 'guerilla,' 'Kurdistan' within Turkey's borders. You can say it in areas in Iraq. You cannot do this within the borders of the National Pact [Misak-ı Milli]. You can go now,” the chief judge further said.