Dozens of Kurdish concerts, plays banned in Turkey in three years

On November 7, 2021, President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was welcomed with the Kurdish song of “Dar Hejîrokê” in Batman, eastern Turkey, where he visited to take part in a mass opening ceremony,

Newspapers close to the government reported this with the headline, “President Erdoğan sang Kurdish songs with the youth in Batman.” Less than a week later, the AKP-led Keçiören District Municipality in the capital of Ankara canceled the concert of the Kurdish musician Mem Ararat.

Many Kurdish culture and arts events had been canceled before Mem Ararat’s concert. Cancellation, prevention and censorship continued after that.

Three event bans in two days

On May 13, the Derince District Municipality canceled Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan’s concert and the Çayırova District Municipality banned a Kurdish theater play in Kocaeli province. Both municipalities are run by the AKP.

On May 16, the Muş Governor’s Office canceled the concert of Metin-Kemal Kahraman.

There is the cancellation or prevention of planned events on one side of the coin, and the indirect censorship of artists and musicians on the other side.

Pervin Çakar, a Kurdish opera artist, has been drawing attention to this issue for a while on her Twitter account. They have not been able to find a hall for concerts because there were Kurdish works in their repertoire.

In February, the Şermola Performance Theater Group said on Twitter that they could not find a hall to stage their play.

We have compiled a list of prevented culture and arts events in Kurdish that were reported in the Speak Up Platform’s “Censorship and Self-censorship” reports:


July 20: The İzmir Musicians Association was warned “not to sing in Kurdish on the stage” ahead of a concert in Kadifekale.

July 23: Kurdish musician Mem Ararat’s concert was banned by the Van Governor’s Office.

July 28: Ahead of the concert of Azed Bedran and Zinar Sozdar that was planned to take place at the municipality’s Mittani Cultural Center, the Sub-governor’s Office of Nusaybin in Mardin province sent a communication to municipality, saying, “As a result of the evaluations, the requested concert has not been found appropriate.”

An open air concert planned by the Nusaybin Municipality was also canceled by the sub-governor’s office.

October 8: Seven musicians who were detained on October 4 in Viraşehir, Urfa, because of singing in Kurdish, were remanded in custody for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”


January 21: Members of Grup Munzur were sentenced to 10 months in prison for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” because of their songs “Zindana Diyarbekir” and “Serhildan Jiyan e,” which they sang in Van during the 2017 Newroz celebrations.

February 24: Hayri Kasaç, a competitor in “O Ses Türkiye,” a singing contest on TV8, said he had not been allowed to sing in Kurdish because “it was banned.”

August 20: The Mesopotamia Cultural Center (MKM) had to leave a building in İstanbul that it had rented from the General Directorate of Foundations after an order of the Beyoğlu Sub-governor’s Office. The sub-governor then handed over the building to the Beyoğlu District Municipality, which is run by the AKP.

September 20: Mesopotamia Cultural Center musician Weysi Ermiş was detained for singing in Kurdish during rallies.

September 23: The “Roj Band” was prevented from appearing on the stage during the “Art is on the Street” event organized by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) because its name and songs are in Kurdish.

October 13: An event where the Avesta Publishing House interviewed author Mîrza Metîn in Kurdish was interrupted when the police entered the hall to prevent the interview “because of the pandemic.” The publishing house then announced it would cancel its events in Mardin.

November 2: It was revealed that books of several Kurdish publishing houses were not included in the İstanbul Book Store owned by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality due to “sensitivities.”

November 13: A Kurdish theater play titled “Bêrû,” which was in the November programme of the IMM City Theaters, was banned by an order from the governor’s office.

November 14: The play “Bêrû” was banned in Urfa.

November 15: A child who took part in an event organized by the Mesopotamia Cultural Center was detained in an investigation on November 27.

November 15: The Fatih Sub-governor’s Office in İstanbul prevented a stand-up show titled “Dawiya Dawî” (Sooner or later for Kurdish) as part of an event organized by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).


April 3: Eyüp Temirak, who uses the stage name “Siwaro” and performs street music in Kurdish, had his instruments seized by the municipal police after complaints because of using an amplifier.

May 24: Fuat Ege and Rohat Aram of the Koma Awaza Azad band were indicted for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” because of the songs they sang during the Newroz celebrations in Van.

July 7: The municipal police of the Beyoğlu District Municipality did not allow street musicians on İstiklal Avenue to sing in Kurdish and seized their instruments.

October 16: İstanbul’s Kadıköy Sub-governor’s Office banned a concert organized by the Mesopotamia Cultural Center for “national security” and “public order” reasons.

October 22: The Tunceli Gorvernor’s Office did not allow a concert by Mikal Aslan and Cemil Qoçgîrî on Dersim’s Seyit Rıza Square.

November 15: The AKP-led Keçiören District Municipality in Ankara unilaterally canceled a contract for a hall where Mem Ararat was going to stage a concert.

December 5: The Mardin Governor’s Office did not allow a Kurdish theater play titled “Tartuffe” by the Amed City Theater, citing the pandemic. It allowed a Kurdish play on December 12.


January 29: Police prevented street musicians singing in Kurdish on İstiklal Avenue in Taksim, İstanbul. The musicians were battered and detained for “disturbing people.”

March 6: The Cizre sub-governor’s Office in Şırnak canceled a theater play titled “Mem û Zîn” by the Şermola Performans group that was going to be staged at the Cizre Municipality Cultural Center even though the fee for the hall had been paid to the municipality.

May 12: Police detained Dengbêj Xalide, a musician with the Mesopotamia Cultural Center, during raids in Okmeydanı, İstanbul, early in the morning. The musician’s home was raided by special operations forces and her door was broken.

May 13: Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan’s concert was banned by the AKP-led Derince District Municipality.

May 13: The Amed City Theater’s play, “Don Kîxot,” a Kurdish adaptation of Cervantes’ famous work, was banned by the AKP-led Çayırova District Municipality.

May 16: Metin-Kemal Kahraman’s concert was banned by the Muş Governor’s Office.