The Turkish government has canceled four concerts by singer Sıla Gençoğlu after she publicly condemned political rallies in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following a July 15 coup attempt as “shows” in which she felt uncomfortable participating.
Hurriyet reports that multiple municipal governments revoked her permissions to perform, including in Istanbul, where the Metropolitan Authority accused her of “mocking” the Turkish people’s “honorable stance and will” by dismissing government-orchestrated rallies as forced displays meant to enhance Erdogan’s profile. Istanbul canceled two of Gençoğlu’s concerts in the city.
After being invited to attend a “pro-democracy” rally in support of Erdogan, Gençoğlu said, “I am absolutely against the coup but I do not prefer to be inside such a show.”
Following the cancelation of her concerts, Gençoğlu issued a statement reiterating her comments: “I stand by the words I said,” she stated. “Like everyone else, I am also defending democracy.”
The rally that landed Gençoğlu in controversy boasted five million people, according to CNN Türk, and was meant as a rebuke to anti-Erdogan forces in the country. Similar rallies have popped up around the world in areas with high Turkish populations, particularly Germany. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has worked to create an image of unity against the coup and in his favor internationally, even though his party won the last parliamentary elections under dubious circumstances, after edging out a narrow victory months before.
On July 15, high-ranking military members stormed the capital, Ankara, and forced Erdogan into hiding. Erdogan, using the mobile communication app Facetime, called on civilians to attack soldiers they found in the streets, and eventually soldiers loyal to him subdued the coup attempt.
In the aftermath, nearly 100,000 people have been arrested, detained for questioning, or fired from government jobs for allegedly having ties to coup plotters. Erdogan’s government has accused Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric based in Pennsylvania, of having orchestrated the coup through members of his “cult,” and has officially requested the United States extradite him. Gülen denies all involvement with the coup, though he does oppose Erdogan’s leadership of the country.
Gençoğlu is far from the first to find herself censored by the Turkish government for expressing any sentiment that could be interpreted as anti-Erdogan. “Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey, one that has landed more than a few in prison. Among those is a former Miss Turkey, who shared an anti-Erdogan comedic poem on social media, and a Turkish doctor who shared a meme on Facebook comparing Erdogan to The Lord of the Rings character Gollum. The claim that he was actually comparing Erdogan to the more favorably viewed character Smeagol did not win over the Turkish court.
Erdogan has also shut down hundreds of media outlets that published either unbiased news or biased coverage against him, claiming them to be operating organs of what he refers to as the Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization (FETO).
Even apolitical actors, like “rockin’ Imam” Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer, have been denied performance licenses and visas for deviating from conservative Islamism. Protests against terrorist acts have also been shut down if they appeared to have the potential to morph into protests against government inaction.