Former Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters has urged for the release of Kurdish singer Nudem Durak, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison in Turkey on terrorism charges for performing songs in her native language, the US Rolling Stone magazine reported.
Waters called on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to release Durak, who has been held in Bayburt Prison in southeastern Turkey since 2015.
“She’s our sister,” Waters said. “Whatever you think of the Kurds’ desire for recognition, it is unacceptable for a country with a great historical art heritage like Turkey to treat artists like this.”
Durak was jailed for membership in a terrorist organization, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and spreading terrorist propaganda after singing at an event to mark Nevruz, the Kurdish new year.
Durak told Al Jazeera before her imprisonment that “singing in Kurdish is my heritage from my ancestors. … My only crime is making art.”
A global campaign for her release is supported by Waters and others, including fellow musicians and famous Marxist Angela Davis.
Durak’s acoustic guitar was broken by guards during a cell inspection in 2017.
Waters sent his black Martin acoustic guitar, signed by rock legends including Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Pete Townsend, Noel Gallagher and Mark Knopfler, to Durak to highlight her plight.
“We have an absolute responsibility to support her and the hundreds of thousands of others who continue to suffer her fate with false imprisonment all over the world, not least in the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said.
The Free Nudem Durak campaign can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Kurds in Turkey are often pressured not to speak their native language. Authorities frequently claim that people speaking 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.