Kurdish poet, singer seeks Western support for Kurds

Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:54pm EST
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By Dasha Afanasieva and Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - During the 1990s it was dangerous in Turkey to sing or own recordings of the melancholic songs of Kurdish poet and singer Sivan Perwer.

His army of fans in southeastern Kurdistan risked prosecution listening to bootleg tapes of his melodies about Kurdish identity, love and loss, often accompanied by a lute.

Now aged 57, he has been back to Turkey for a brief visit after some four decades in self-imposed exile in Germany, hoping to convince Western powers that the cause of Kurdish nationalism is like the struggle in South Africa against apartheid.

"This issue needs to be taken very seriously, and, like the many other political and human right issues in the world, it should be discussed in the same way as Palestine, the Basques, Quebec, South Africa apartheid or any other political issue," Perwer told Reuters in an emailed response sent from Arbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Mandela, who died this month aged 95 and was imprisoned for 27 years by South Africa's apartheid rule, was a source of inspiration for Turkish Kurds.

The Kurds' leader Abdullah Ocalan has been jailed since 1999 and is widely reviled by Turks who hold him responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms in 1984 to try to carve out a seperate state in the southeast.

For decades, Turkish Kurds were denied their cultural identity - their language and traditions made illegal.

Perwer, a cultural role model for Kurds, said he would not be alive had he not fled to Germany in 1976.   Continued...

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) chats with Kurdish poet and singer Sivan Perwer (L), who had fled Turkey in the 1970s, during a ceremony in Diyarbakir November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer