A folk singer and racist cheerleader who does the bidding of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his nationalist cronies has been fanning hatred in Turkey and Turkish diaspora communities abroad.
İsmail Türüt, 54. who was indicted for incitement of violence and praising the assassins of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, turned out to be the favorite singer of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), which used his songs to torture people who had been abducted in Turkey and abroad.
According to an investigative report published by Turkish journalist-in-exile Cevheri Güven, who interviewed Turkish national Zabit Kişi, an abductee who was subjected to Türüt’s songs blaring on loudspeakers while he was tortured for 108 days in a container close to Ankara Esenboğa Airport. Kişi was spirited out of Kazakhstan by MIT on October 30, 2017 and held in a secret location and tortured for months before he was finally handed over to the police. “They tortured me to the music of the national anthem, janissary marches and İsmail Türüt’s folk songs,” Kişi told Güven as he recounted his torture, ill treatment and abuse at a black site.
Türüt also wrote a song attacking the Gülen movement, a civic group that is highly critical of the Erdoğan government, suggesting that its members be hanged. He made the news recently when he applied for a visa to go to Germany to give a concert. Concerned about his activities, the German Consulate limited his visa to two days only, prompting the singer to lash out at Germany in an interview carried by Sabah, a government mouthpiece owned by Erdoğan’s family. The singer composed election campaign songs for Erdoğan and his political associates including Binali Yıldırım, who recently ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Istanbul. Türüt urged people to vote for Yıldırım by means of religious and nationalist rhetoric.
Nordic Monitor has obtained the indictment against the singer, which showed how he and the song’s lyrics writer, folk poet Arif Şirin (also known as Ozan Arif), were accused of incitement to hatred or hostility, a violation of Turkish Penal Code Article 216 (1). The relevant part of the article reads: “A person who publicly provokes hatred or hostility in one segment of society against another segment that has different characteristics based on social class, race, religion, sect or regional difference which creates an explicit and imminent danger to public security shall be sentenced to imprisonment of between one and three years.”
Türüt’s song and the video scenes hailed Dink’s murder and his accomplices as well as people who were involved in the assassination of Father Andrea Santoro, an Italian priest who was murdered in the Black Sea region. The lyrics of Türüt’s song were written by Arif, a much-loved poet of the ultranationalists, at the request of Türüt, who later put them to music.
Türüt denied his song had any racist implications and said he received numerous congratulatory messages from the public after his recording was released. “I think 99 percent of the public shares my views,” he said, adding that that he was very happy to sing such a song.
“The lyrics of this piece were written by me. I stand behind every line — every single word,” said Arif, who wrote the lyrics.
However, references to the names of hitman Ogün Samast and Yasin Hayal — accused of soliciting the hitman — are present in the song and concealed in rather basic wordplay. The song, titled “Don’t Make Any Plans,” also makes a clear reference to the Santoro murder: “Stop ringing bells/stop being pro-Armenian/the people won’t swallow that/not in the Black Sea region.” A picture of Father Santoro appears in the video when Türüt sings the line “Stop ringing bells,” and footage is shown from Dink’s funeral, during which hundreds of thousands of mourners holding banners reading “We are all Armenian” formed a long procession on the streets of Istanbul.
A photo of Dink’s dead body in front of his newspaper is shown as the words “If somebody sells out the motherland/they will immediately die” are being sung. The video is full of ultranationalist, religious, anti-American and anti-Israel images.
Yet, in December 2009 both Türüt and Afif were acquitted of all charges. Zeynel Abidin Mutlu, another suspect who promoted the video on the Internet, was also found not guilty by the panel of judges at the Istanbul 16th Court of First Instance. Hakan Öztekin, a fan who made the video, was found guilty of praising a crime and criminal and sentenced to one year, five months and 15 days in jail. However the court decided to commute his sentence and let him off the hook as well.
A prominent member of Turkey’s Armenian community, Dink campaigned for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation but was hated by the nationalists for describing the mass killing of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire era as genocide — a charge that Turkey rejects.
Footage leaked to the media at the time showed officers posing with the teenage hitman as he held a Turkish flag, sparking accusations that some officials secretly approved of Dink’s murder. The video also shows a re-enactment of the pictures of Dink’s murderer posing in front of the Turkish flag after he was captured.
Several lawmakers in the European Parliament tabled a motion seeking condemnation of singer Türüt and folk poet Arif. The European Union progress report also criticized the lyrics and violent video uploaded to YouTube.
The 4-page full text of the indictment is posted below: