Kurdish musician Emel Çiftçi, who was detained in Turkey’s Kurdish- majority Diyarbakır (Amed) on Tuesday, has been sent to prison awaiting trial on charges of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘leading a terrorist organisation’ as part of an investigation launched in Ankara.
Çiftçi was taken into custody while being treated in hospital. Her lawyers have submitted medical reports to the court stating that the accused has uterine cancer and requires urgent surgery.
Çiftçi continues to receive regular cancer treatment at a state hospital in Diyarbakır and has a permanent address. However, the judge’s decision to remand the musician in custody is on suspicion of possible absconding.
The charges against Çiftçi relate to her cultural and artistic activities and are based on statements made about her by a secret witness, according to Mezopotamya Agency.
The incident illustrates challenges faced by artists expressing their Kurdish cultural identity through their work in a region marked by historical tensions and ongoing crackdown.
Çiftçi’s music is deeply rooted in Kurdish culture. Mezopotamya Culture Centre stated that Çiftçi represented “the free Kurdish women’s identity in art and made great efforts for the development of Kurdish art”, calling for her urgent release.
Musicians who perform Kurdish music in Turkey are often subject to arrest and imprisonment, especially during periods of heightened repression. One of the most prominent jailed Kurdish musician is Nûdem Durak, whose release has been called for worldwide.
Durak was imprisoned in 2015 for performing Kurdish political songs, which the prosecution said was evidence that she was a member of an illegal organisation. She was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison.
In July 2016, her sentence was increased to 19 years without any additional charges or convictions. International actors, musicians and artists have repeatedly called for the immediate release of the imprisoned Kurdish singer, as well as other imprisoned artists.