On 28 May 2023, incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was re-elected in the second round of the Turkish presidential election. This was grim news for supporters of justice. Millions of Turks and Kurds had hoped, by supporting the united opposition candidate, to see Turkey enter a new era. Not this time.
Repression will continue to fill the prisons, which are already full of intellectuals, artists, activists, and opponents of the government's expansionist wars. In 2019, Amnesty International called Turkey "the world's largest prison for journalists".
Turkish and Kurdish artists are paying dearly for their independence under Erdoğan's reign. At the end of 2021, the singer Omar Souleyman, an international electro-folk star, was arrested. A few months later, the famous pop singer Gülsen was thrown into prison following a joke made during a concert. Then it was the turn of Aynur Doğan, an international representative of Kurdish song, to have one of her concerts cancelled by the authorities.
Since April 2015, a young Kurdish singer has been languishing in prison. Her name is Nûdem Durak. She ran a cultural centre on a voluntary basis and sang about the democratic, political and cultural struggle of her people. The authorities call this "terrorism." But Nûdem Durak is not a member of any party: she has simply, through her voice and her art, given voice to a historically oppressed minority. The singer is therefore serving a 19-year sentence for her courage and her ideas. She is due to be released in 2034.
Through her voice, muzzled, beaten, and tortured, it is the voice of millions of people that resounds: "I, the child of this people, will not betray. Against war, against exile, against the occupation that forbids us to cry, to laugh and even to speak, I will embrace music", she wrote in prison.
From the depths of her prison, Nûdem Durak is asking to be retried. Her trial was not a real trial: she was tried collectively, with a dozen other people. Several elements continue to be ignored by the courts, including the confession of a so-called "witness" who has since admitted giving false testimony.
The prisoners have only the outside world to relay their voices. Our duty - as artists and authors committed to justice - is to amplify their voice and their message. In many countries, through the "Free Nûdem Durak" solidarity campaign, artists, intellectuals, activists and citizens are calling for the young singer to finally be heard. That justice be done. Nûdem Durak is not a "terrorist"! Nûdem Durak must not remain in prison until 2034! Justice for her and for all political prisoners!
Bryan Adams, musician, Canada
Tunde Adebimpe, musician (TV on the Radio), USA
Joseph Andras, author, France
Ramin Bahrani, film director, Iran/USA
Saleh Bakri, actor, Palestine
Jeanne Balibar, actor, France
Frank Barat, author, Belgium
Juliette Binoche, actor, France
Rachida Brakni, actor, France
Breyten Breytenbach, author, South Africa
Eric Cantona, actor, France
Carmen Castillo, film director, Chile
Isabel Coixet, film director, Spain
Molly Crabapple, artist, USA
Erri De Luca, author, Italy
Sara Driver, film director, USA
Brian Eno, musician, UK
Aslı Erdoğan, author, Turkey
Annie Ernaux, author, France
Peter Gabriel, musician, UK
Anouk Grinberg, actor, France
Robert Guédiguian, film director, France
Annemarie Jacir, film director, Palestine
Nicolas Jaar, musician, Chile
Jim Jarmusch, film director, USA
Aki Kaurismaki, film director, Finland
Talib Kweli, musician, USA
Paul Laverty, screenwriter, UK
Ken Loach, film director, UK
Miriam Margolyes, actor, UK
Massive Attack, UK
Emel Mathlouthi, musician, Tunisia
Sepideh Moafi, actor, USA
Thurston Moore, musician (Sonic Youth), USA
Tom Morello, musician (Rage Against the Machine), USA
PEN Afrikaans, South Africa
Charlie Reid, musician (The Proclaimers), UK
Arundhati Roy, author, India
Mark Ruffalo, actor, USA
Pınar Selek, author, Turkey
Shumona Sinha, author, India/France
Ahdaf Soueif, author, Egypt
Serj Tankian, musician (System of a Down), USA
Ece Temelkuran, author, Turkey
Ana Tijoux, musician, Chile
Éric Vuillard, author, France
V formerly known as Eve Ensler, author, USA
Alice Walker, author, USA