An Antakya-based choir that has toured the world promoting tolerance through its multicultural and multilingual songs has been forced to cancel a special performance in Parliament due to objections over a Kurdish song in its repertoire.
“This is disappointing for us,” said choir director Yılmaz Özfırat, adding that they were surprised at the objection to a Kurdish song. “We are Turkey’s unifying force; we are Turkey.”
The Antakya Civilizations Choir has previously performed in Germany and the United States, and had been working toward its parliamentary performance for three months.
Özfırat said his choir had prepared seven songs from the seven regions of Turkey in honor April 23, the anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Parliament.
“These seven songs were added to our repertoire for the first time, we were working on them together. There are Kurdish, Zazaki and Arabic songs. We were surprised when they said we couldn’t do it,” he said.
“We are not professional musicians; we are priests, imams, teachers, doctors, Alevis, Sunnis, Catholics, Armenians, Jews – in short, we are citizens of the Turkish Republic and we represent our culture of coexistence,” he said. “Before the opening process began, we said that ‘if we don’t do something for our brothers, somebody else will.’ We duly added Kurdish songs to our repertoire. There are no Kurds in our choir, but we learned Kurdish.”