“It’s a wonderful thing to be alive” written by Turkish music icon, Sezen Aksu, made its debut in 2017. Five years later, Aksu, share the video of the same song via his YouTube channel ahead of the New Year celebrations. The YouTube video was accompanied by a message from Aksu, wishing his fans a year of humanity, freedom and togetherness. Little did the singer know she would soon face a barrage of criticism over the lyrics of the songs and her character. Aksu is accused to degrade religious values because a line from the song reads: “Give my regards to the ignorant Eve and Adam”.
The 67-year-old singer-songwriter is also focused towards a criminal complaint and was the subject of an online hate campaign that took Turkish Twitter space by storm under the hashtag #SezenAksuHaddiniBil (#SezenAksuKnowYourPlace). On January 17, a group of men staged a protest outside the singer’s home.
A member and parliamentarian of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) Mustafa Açıkgöz tweeted:
Sanat, müzik kisvesi altında değerlerimize yaptığınız saldırılara artık his verin, “Modanız Geçti”, toplumumuz sizin gibilerden bıktı! #SezenAksuHaddiniBil
— Mustafa Açıkgöz 🇹🇷 (@kulmustafa77_ac) January 15, 2022
Enough! It’s time you stop attacking our values disguised as art and music, “You’re Out of Fashion”, our society is fed up with people like you! #SezenAksuHaddiniBil
Other lawmakers have followed suit. “The misery and ignorance of the irresponsible singer, who called Prophet Adem and Hava ‘ignorant’ in the lyrics of the bizarre song she wrote, is self-explanatory,” noted Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli addressing a parliamentary group meeting on January 18. The MHP is part of the coalition with the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party.
Meanwhile, the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) issued a declaration. Although it doesn’t explicitly mention Aksu’s name, the wording of the statement makes it clear that it refers to Aksu and the song.
The careless attitude towards religious figures is disrespectful to say the least. Irrespective of its purpose, intent and context, it is necessary to be extremely sensitive and careful in every sentence, statement and approach made about distinguished personalities, leaders and exemplars of Islam.
While Aksu has refrained from making public statements following the attacks, politicians as well as artists have come out in support of the icon.
Mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu tweeted,
— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) January 18, 2022
An artist, speak. Artists are the inner voice of this country. No one has the right to silence these voices to change the public agenda.
Ali Babacan, former AKP member and chairman of the DEVA party tweeted:
Türkiye ancak fikir ve ifade özgürlüğü zemininde yükselebilir.
Sanatçılarımız da sanatlarını icra ederken özgür olmalıdır. Şarkı sözlerini çarpıtan zihniyet bu ülkeye sadece kötülük yapmaktadır.#SezenAksu‘nun hedef alınması kabul edilemez.
— Ali Babacan (@alibabacan) January 17, 2022
Turkey can only rise on the ground of freedom of thought and expression. Our artists must also be free in the exercise of their art. A mentality that distorts words only does a disservice to this country. Targeting #SezenAksu is unacceptable.
Writer Elif Shafak joined his defense, Tweeter, “We have become a society that exhausts its artists with insults, lynchings and slanders […] It’s so easy to attack people. #SezenAksu is one of the most valuable artists in this country. His songs and his voice have found a place in the hearts of many generations #sezenaksuyalnızdeğildir (#SezenAksuIsNotAlone).
Rapper Şanışer also expressed his support for Aksu. “If you are unable to understand what you read, do not listen to Sezen Aksu”, tweeted artist whose epic song #Susamam rocked Turkey in 2019.
In the New Year’s message Aksu shared on YouTube, she hoped that in the New Year “we realize the power of solidarity, heal each other’s wounds, be ashamed of the violence we have gradually normalized”. […] to change, transform and progress. The recent wave of harassment the singer has faced indicates that there is a long way to go, but there is still hope, with all the solidarity and support that has emerged.