ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Turkey’s powerful military banned Kurdish and Armenian musicians from performing at a weekend popular music festival in Istanbul–concert organizers said on Monday.
"The reason given to us orally…was ‘the situation the country is in’," the organizers of the second Istanbul Music Festivities said in a statement faxed to Reuters.
Experimental Kurdish musician Reso and Armenian folk group Knar–dedicated to reviving lost Anatolian folk songs–were banned at the last minute from playing at the festival–held at a cultural complex leased from the military general staff.
Turkish officials have been increasingly vigilant against popular expressions of Kurdish identity following the arrest of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in Rome last month.
Ankara is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Italy over Rome’s refusal to extradite Ocalan to Turkey–where he is accused of responsibility for the deaths of more than 29,000 people in a 14-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule.
Festival organizers said the written reason given by the armed forces for the cancellation of both concerts was that they could turn into performances with an ideological content.
Military officials are also wary of dissenting voices from the country’s small Armenian minority.