Lowkey, don't go to Turkey!

After being asked by Kurdish campaigners to boycott an event at Istanbul Zaim University, we sent this open letter to Lowkey, the left-wing rapper and campaigner.

Dear Lowkey,

You have advertised that you are due to speak and perform at Istanbul Zaim University on April 4th.

We are asking you to reconsider because by performing there you will be playing in a country that has been carrying out war crimes and the ethnic cleansing of Kurds both in Turkey and through the illegal invasion and occupation of Afrin in northern Syria.

You have already been contacted by Kurdish organisations and representatives along with other performers and artists that have asked you to respect their calls for a boycott of Turkey. Although the posts advertising An Evening With Lowkey have been taken down from your social media accounts, you have failed to respond to their calls.

At present, academics are calling for a targeted boycott of Turkish higher education institutions. This is because thousands have been persecuted, purged and sacked from their posts for signing a petition calling for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. They have been branded traitors and terrorists by the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

More broadly, democracy has been clamped down on in Turkey with an ongoing state of emergency which has been in place for nearly two years. More than 100,000 public sector workers have been dismissed and the country has jailed more journalists than anywhere else in the world. In the largely Kurdish south-east of the country towns and cities including Cizre, Nusaybin and Sur have been destroyed with many people killed, including 189 men, women and children who were burned alive by Turkish security services in three basement fires in 2016. The Permanent People’s Tribunal preliminary decision in March this year found that “the Turkish state is accountable for war crimes, not only in Turkey but also abroad”, with its full decision to be presented to the European Parliament in Brussels next month.

On January 20 Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch, its illegal invasion of the peaceful, non-aggressive people of Afrin. So far at least 500 are believed to have been killed with many more maimed and injured. Thousands have been forced to flee as NATO's second largest army bombards the region with weapons supplied by the west. The Turkish state has allied with jihadist mercenaries in the Free Syrian Army with reports of rape, beheadings and the mutilation of dead bodies of women. It has been accused of carrying out chemical attacks and the destruction of Kurdish symbols. As you know, on March 15 a British woman called Anna Campbell, who had volunteered to fight with the YPJ, was killed by a Turkish air strike in Afrin. Her body remains in Syria and her family has pleaded with the government to negotiate a ceasefire to bring her body home. This illegal invasion and occupation was celebrated publicly by the academic institution at which you are due to perform.

We are surprised at your decision to go to Turkey given your stance on Palestine and a cultural boycott of Israel. Since you have pleaded with Radiohead to abide by the cultural boycott of Israel, it seems only right that you respond to the call to stand against Turkey's cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing of Kurds. In asking you not to perform in Turkey, Kurds have appealed to you to take a small step in pressuring Turkey to end its violations of basic human rights and international law. Standing up for human rights applies everywhere, and that must include what is happening to Kurds every single day.

Your song Ahmed was about the death of Kurdish 5 year old Alan Kurdi. One of the lyrics says “For him we cry because when he dies we do too.” Don’t let your words become empty rhetoric. Follow the lead of what artists did in apartheid South Africa and what you yourself advocate in Israel - stay away until the brutal treatment of the Kurds is over and the peace process has recommenced. 

Lowkey, don’t go to Turkey!

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