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Three members of children's choir face charges of "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation" after singing Kurdish song in U.S. music festival

(Antenna-TR/IFEX) - Three children, members of the Diyarbakir Yenisehir Council Children's Choir, will stand trial for singing a march in Kurdish while performing in the U.S. The indictment, dated 3 April 2008, seeks the imprisonment of three children under the age of 18 for up to five years each.

The choir attended the World Music Festival in San Francisco between 3 and 7 October 2007, and there sang a march in Kurdish: "Ey Raqip".

The Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor's office opened a case against three members of the choir: Servan Yilmaz, aged 16; Gökhan Ok, aged 17; and Veysel Mamuk, aged 16. The indictment argues that the children sang with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) flags in the background, and that the song they sang has been adopted as an official march by the PKK. The indictment quoted the defence statements of the children, and said that the children took to the stage in San Fransisco and sang "Ey Raqip" after their teacher, Duygu Özge Bayar, taught them the song in one day because the audience requested it.

The children's lawyer, Baran Pamuk, noted that the song was written by the Iranian-Kurdish poet, Dildar, 68 years ago. Pamuk says: "That song was accepted as the national anthem of the Mahabad Kurdish Republic, which was proclaimed in 1946 and lasted for one year, and it is now used as an official anthem by the Northern Iraq Kurdish Federal Government. However, it is not possible to accept that a poem written 68 years ago is the propaganda tool of an organisation. The founders of the organisation in question were not even born yet at the time the poem was written. There is no mention of that organisation in the song."

The teacher of the choir, Duygu Bayar, stated: "We shared our culture there, at the festival. We sang various songs showing the styles of Diyarbakir. Churches and the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association contributed to our repertory of songs. If performing these songs is separatism, then we are guilty of promoting separatism."

The children are charged with "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and will appear in court on 9 June 2008.

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