Behiye Baki is a Kurdish dengbêj (folk singer) who was detained and sentenced to life in prison in Turkey for the alleged charge of “being a member of an organization” in 2017. The court’s decision was based sorely on witness statements, with no other evidence being presented against her.
Baki has been imprisoned in Van (Wan) T-Type Closed Prison for four years and she told her story to two journalists, Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala. They have also been in the same prison for reporting about two villagers who were tortured and thrown from a helicopter by soldiers in Van.
Behiye stated that she started singing at the age of fifteen but struggled a lot due to the Turkish state’s intolerance of the Kurdish culture. “I never gave up. The feudal and patriarchal approach of my family could not stop me either”, she said.
When she was thirteen, she listened to the tapes of dengbêjs Ayşe Şan and Meryem Xan. She was influenced by these sounds and at the age of fifteen, attended the cultural centre in Hakkari (Colemerg) to receive vocal training. “Here in prison, only my body is captive, but not my voice. My voice reaches out everywhere in this prison. We share our joy and pain with each other by singing”, she says.
Dengbej: The musical preservation of Kurdish myths, testimonies and history