Turkish rappers call on citizens to speak up with music video | Music | DW
Turkish rappers call on citizens to speak up with music video | Music | DW

The socially critical rap song “#Susamam” (I can’t remain silent) has obviously hit a nerve with the Turkish population. In less than a week, the music video has gone viral. It’s been viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube; it’s been “liked” more than 1.5 million times.

An exclusive report by Deutsche Welle immediately following its release also sparked an intense response: DW interviewed four of the rappers involved and posted a video with the interviews on social networks. Since then, it’s been viewed nearly nearly 500,000 times on DW’s YouTube channel and its been retweeted thousands of times.

The 15-minute song is elaborately produced: 18 rappers took part in the joint production, which was released exactly at midnight from last Thursday to Friday. The video paints a gloomy picture of Turkey and a host of grievances: Murders of women, the destruction of the environment, cruelty to animals, nepotism and police violence — hardly a current problem in Turkey remains unmentioned in the music clip.

“Many artists are concerned with such topics in these difficult times,” the rapper duo Tahribad-i Isyan, who contributed to the song, told DW. “But since our rights are severely restricted at the moment, no one has dared to open their mouths yet. The song enables us to finally send out a signal against injustice.”

Rapper collective says society must also change

According to the makers of the video, not only artists, but society as a whole should break the silence. In one song passage, rapper Saniser, who initiated the project, turns to viewers and sings: “You haven’t raised your voice, so it’s your own fault!”

This is how the artists Tahribad-i Isyan see it. Their goal is to reach hundreds of thousands more people with their song: “Our children should grow up in a more beautiful world,” they said. “With our message, we want to sharpen the consciousness of the youth. We want to motivate people to speak out immediately as soon as they recognize injustice.”

The “#Susamam” song, which relentlessly reckons with the political and social conditions in Turkey, does not employ any messages from political parties. There is no direct reference to the government or to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in any of the lyrics.

Read more: LGBT+ in Turkey’s prisons: A double punishment

“Raise your voice,” says rapper Saniser (left), who initiated the project

Turkish press: Music video cooperation with terrorists

Nevertheless, the press close to the government strongly attacked the video and accused the rappers of cooperating with terrorist organizations. The pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak described the video as a “joint production” by left-wing extremist fringe groups as well as by the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and the Gülen Movement — both classified by Turkey as terrorist organizations. In addition, the artists involved are portrayed as criminals.

DW’s coverage has also been criticized. “The video has spread with the help of international media houses such as Deutsche Welle and the BBC,” the pro-government newspaper wrote. The BBC had also interviewed some of the rappers immediately following the music video’s release.

AKP supporters launched a counter-campaign on Twitter. Under the hashtag “Sustunuz” — “you have remained silent” — Islamic-conservative users point out that the rappers have not spoken out against the coup attempt of 2016 or regularly occurring PKK terrorism. Hamza Dag, deputy party leader of the ruling AKP party, wrote on Twitter: “Art should not be misused for provocation and political manipulation.”

No fear of the Turkish judiciary

“#Susamam” is also a sensation because the 18 rappers have done what few in Turkish society have dared to do: They are relentlessly critical of the political conditions and problems, despite the high risk of prosecution.

It cannot be ruled out that the rappers will be persecuted by the Turkish judiciary because of the music video. The video could be interpreted as “terrorist propaganda” or as “support of a terrorist organization” and could result in imprisonment.

Despite the risk, the rappers are intrepid. Rapper Fuat told DW: “We will continue on our path. We are not afraid.” Rapper Ados expressed himself in equally determined fashion: “Society is on our side, the people are behind us; so we don’t have to fear being investigated.” He said it was a mistake to have remained silent for so long.