This column will not be a long one as the person I am featuring has told her own story to the world in many ways. This simple story is this: Nûdem Durak is serving a nineteen year sentence in a Turkish prison. Her crime? Singing songs in her native Kurdish language.
The Turkish government forbids the use of the Kurdish language for any purpose other than “communication.” However, use of the language for “spreading propaganda” is punishable by imprisonment. She was originally given a 10 ½ year sentence for “promoting Kurdish propaganda” in 2015; no additional charges were brought but in 2016 her sentence was extended to 19 years for no apparent reason. Click here for the full detailed story.
Communication with her family is limited to telephone calls, some of which include her singing such as this one from May of 2022. In that recent communication, she expressed her fear that due to her medical condition she may lose her ability to sing altogether.
I learned about Nûdem Durak’s plight from a musician I know who is among the many others who are working hard to publicize Nûdem’s story in the hope that she may be released due to sustained public pressure. I also learned about the Voice Project, a charitable organization working to free dozens of musical and other artists around the world who are currently imprisoned for creative work that, for a variety of reasons, did not suit their government. You will find the full list here.
Finally, here is Nûdem Durak’s story in her own words and those of her attorney. This 10 minute mini-documentary was made just after she was given the original 10 ½ year sentence.
Jailed for Singing Songs
The Story of Nûdem Durak