Multi-culti pop divides Turks

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey might have voted to broaden minority rights as part of its efforts to join the European Union, but singing in Armenian, Greek and Kurdish can still send nationalist tempers into a frenzy. Sezen Aksu, Turkey’s top pop singer, this week caused a row after singing folk songs in Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, Kurdish and Turkish during a weekend concert attended by 20,000 people in Izmir. An Armenian church choir, music groups from the Greek and Jewish communities, and a children’s choir from the mainly Kurdish southeast accompanied her on stage. The mainstream press hailed the concert as helping to promote tolerance in Turkey. It followed the Turkish Parliament giving the green light last month to doing away with bans on broadcasts and courses in Kurdish, in a bid to bring its legislation in line with EU expectations. But one general was not happy. Hursit Tolon, a regional commander of the army, which still wields significant influence in Turkish politics, criticized the timing of the show. It took place on Victory Day, August 30, which commemorates the 1922 defeat of an invading Greek army by Turkish forces. The far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) accused Aksu of propagating separatism. «Aksu says a country cannot be divided by a song. Of course not, but this is a process. Yugoslavia was also saying it would not split up, but thousands died and it was divided into five,» said MHP member Mehmet Gul. «I advise her to go Greece and Armenia to give those concerts,» he added. «The MHP are the real separatists. Not wanting people to sing together is equal to not wanting them to live together,» said Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-language Agos daily. Culture Minister Suat Caglayan accused Aksu’s critics of «racism.»

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