The arrest of popular artist Ezhel angers Turk’s who want freedom of expression

By Middle East Affairs

Popular Turkish artist Ezhel was arrested Thursday in Istanbul, on charges of inciting drug use through his lyrics, the arrest is only one in a sweeping raid of arrests on journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers who oppose President Erdogan and his ruling party.

He was first interrogated by the Istanbul Security Directorate, Narcotics Crimes Branch then arrested.

The 28-year-old rapper whose real name is Ömer Sercan Ipekcioglu is a well-known and popular musician in Turkey, his videos actively reach more than 30 millions of views on Youtube.

Soon after his arrest, the hashtag #FreeEzhel inspired thousands of posts on his behalf calling for his release and freedom for music. The hashtag quickly became the most popular in Turkey, with a petition demanding his freedom reaching almost 50,000 signatures early on Friday. The petition reads that supporters of Ezhel “will not bow to the injustice of those who wish to restrict the freedom of thought through unjust laws and systems.”

Some posts say that Ezhel is a poet and a voice for many people, while others called on the injustice of his arrest whilst actual criminals like rapists, child-abusers, and corruption thieves go unarrested in Turkey.

One mentioned the case of Azize Yaman’s husband who had broken into her house while on drugs, asked for money to buy drugs, and stapped his own child six times only to be released from prison shortly after his arrest. The post read “If you are going to release a drug user and stabber, release the artist who has a song about drugs.”

The song in question makes a reference to cannabis.

Ezhel released his debut album “Müptezhel” in 2017, to the surprise of many who found his genre-blending sound unique. He has brought attention to Ankara’s urban community and regularly pays tribute to his hometown. His music video for “Şehrimin Tadı” (Taste of my City) received 31 million views on YouTube.

Others are calling on world-famous American rapper, Wiz Khalifa who is set to play in Istanbul this summer to raise awareness for his fellow rapper’s arrest.

This year, opponents of President Erdogan were furious when they found out that more than 208 songs had been banned on state-sponsored media outlet TRT over the past two years. The media outlet released a statement that said they were not banning artists, but respecting the law which prohibits the broadcast of content encouraging people to smoke, drink or carries “terrorist propaganda”.

Earlier this year in March, the Turkish singer and actress Zuhal Olcay was arrested and is serving out a ten-month sentence in prison for insulting the president, the prosecutor wanted to imprison Olcay for four years in prison.

After an investigation of the footage of her concert, Olcay is seen making a hand gesture, which she says was directed towards an audience member after they had a negative interaction, the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office claims it was towards President Erdogan.

The lyrics in her song, “Boş Vermişim Dünyayı” (I Let Go of the World), which she changed for her onstage performance to say, “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream” were used as evidence against her in the 10-month sentence.

Since the failed 2016 coup in Turkey, President Erdogan has called for the arrests of thousands of teachers, lawyers, artists, and journalists that oppose him and his conservative party, The Justice and Development Party.

The opposition of the country’s ruling party is growing more increasingly worried at the Turkish’s president authoritian ruling, and last year’s election which switched the country to a powerful executive presidency. The Turkish president began his political career as Mayor of Istanbul in 1994, he served as Prime Minister in 2003, a position that previously held as much power as the presidency then ran as president in 2014.

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