Pianist Say was recently given a suspended 10-month prison sentence. DHA photo
World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say, recently sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy, voiced his worries over the pressures on freedom of speech, in a video statement screened at a meeting organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in Istanbul on May 23.
“We have been going through a harsh period in Turkey, as those trying to gain power through the exploitation of religion oppress the people. It is worrisome for all of us, as a particularly powerful ruling party does religious-based politics and sets people aside,” said Say in his video statement.
On April 15, Say received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam, saying: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house? You say you will give two houris to each Muslim. Is the Garden of Eden a whorehouse?”
Pianist Say said it had been hard to voice opinions and perform art in Turkey recently. “As individuals, we have to fight for our lifestyles and our existence, opinions, art and future under pressure. In the past few years, the epic speeches, attempts to discriminate one to another, and exploitation of religion increased in Turkey. Manipulations increased too. We cannot share our thoughts or art,” he added. In his statement, Say recalled that he was sentenced for sharing a poem on the internet.
“Thousands of people received sentences for being dissidents. Many people are oppressed and frightened. “It has now turned into a show of strength by the ruling party. The situation is worrying.” “The religious values and freedom of opinion might be conflicting but this should be settled by discussions and by staying friends, not by penalties. People must be free. The power must be shared in balance in a secular system,” he said.