Pandemic threatens livelihood of Turkish musicians, driving many to suicide

many musicians rely on wedding bookings to make money, but dancing and music at weddings has been banned. (AFP/file)
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Updated 17 September 2020

Pandemic threatens livelihood of Turkish musicians, driving many to suicide

  • Around 100 musicians have ended their own lives since the start of pandemic measures

ANKARA: Around 100 musicians in Turkey have committed suicide since the country introduced preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic in March, according to statistics released by the Turkish Musicians and Performers Union (Muzik-Sen) early this month.

There are roughly 1 million registered musicians in Turkey, many of whom work without insurance and so have been unable to claim state benefits since events, including weddings, were cancelled or restricted to curb the spread of the virus.

Outside of the country’s large entertainment venues — which have been shut down in the pandemic — many musicians rely on wedding bookings to make money, but dancing and music at weddings has been banned, with ceremonies limited to one hour, as the summer wedding season was seen as responsible for an uptick in COVID-19 case numbers.

Representatives of the entertainment industry have urged the government to introduce comprehensive aid packages for the sector in order to prevent a wave of social unrest and further suicides.

“State authorities haven’t protected musicians under these harsh conditions,” Muzik-Sen’s Hasan Aldemir told Arab News. “But when cultural and artistic works are under threat in a country, society cannot make any progress and will inevitably turn towards degeneration.”

According to Aldemir, the government must take “urgent steps” to offer social security to musicians who have already turned to the informal economy.

“These insecure conditions are already killing musicians even when they are alive,” he said.

Veteran musician Niyazi Buluet, one of 20,000 Roma residents in Turkey’s southeastern Gaziantep province, said more than 2,000 musicians in the region have been seriously affected by the measures introduced to curb the pandemic.

“We need state support, especially these days,” he said, adding that many young musicians are “taking drugs to endure this economic hardship” while others are begging on the street, or have turned to prostitution in order to make some money. As poverty worsens in the country, the unemployment rate among those aged 15-24 has climbed to 26.1 percent.

“People are extremely hungry and they don’t have any other option, because all they know is performing music to bring bread to their houses,” he told Arab News.

Like many of his fellow musicians, Deniz Arslan, who plays the traditional Turkish baglama, has had to sell his instrument and equipment in order to get some cash, and has had to search for work outside of music since the pandemic began.

“My three brothers, who are also musicians, couldn’t pay their rent because they (have not been able to find) work in other places,” Arslan, who lives in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, told Arab News. “Aren’t we also children of this country?”


Arab coalition commander renews support to Yemen

Updated 29 October 2020

Arab coalition commander renews support to Yemen

  • Assurance comes as the governor of Aden thanked it for helping local security authorities intercept a major cargo of drugs at Aden seaport
  • Yemen’s defense minister said on Wednesday that at least 800 Houthi fighters, including senior field commanders, had been killed since the beginning of this month

AL-MUKALLA: The coalition will continue backing Yemeni military forces fighting the Houthis until the country returns to normal, the commander of Arab coalition forces in the southern city of Aden has said.

During a meeting with Aden’s new governor, Ahmed Lamlis, Brig. Gen. Nayef Al-Otaibi said that the coalition would continue its support till Yemen recovered from the war and its state bodies functioned normally, Yemeni state media said on Wednesday.

The coalition’s assurance comes as the governor of Aden thanked it for helping local security authorities intercept a major cargo of drugs at Aden seaport. The governor told the Arab coalition commander that local authorities in Aden were looking forward to receiving more support from the coalition, enabling them to bring back peace and stability to Aden and fix vital services there.

The Arab coalition and local security authorities at Aden seaport recently announced a 500kg cocaine and heroin bust worth millions of dollars. The drugs were hidden inside sugar bags in a large sugar shipment originating from Brazil. There was no information about arrests in connection with the drugs bust but local security officials said that investigations were underway.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s defense minister said on Wednesday that at least 800 Houthi fighters, including senior field commanders, had been killed since the beginning of this month in fighting with government troops or in Arab coalition airstrikes.

Based on Houthi burial statements carried on their media, the rebels have buried more than 600 fighters, including 154 field leaders, since Oct. 1, in different provinces under their control. In the capital, Sanaa, the rebels have arranged funeral processions for 178 dead fighters, including 67 field commanders with different military rankings, the ministry said in a statement on its news site.

Most of the Houthi deaths occurred in the provinces of Marib and Jouf, where rebel forces are engaging in heavy fighting with government forces and allied tribesmen, backed by Arab coalition warplanes.

State media also quoted the governor of Jouf, Ameen Al-Oukaimi, as saying that government forces had inflicted a huge defeat on the Houthis during the latest intense fighting in the province. Yemeni Army commanders said that they foiled Houthis attempts to recapture the liberated Al-Khanjer military base and surrounding areas in Jouf.

In the western province of Hodeidah, the Joint Forces, an umbrella term for three major military units in the country’s western coast, said that a Houthi field military leader, Mohammed Yahya Al-Hameli, was killed during a foiled rebel assault in the province on Wednesday.

Fighting has continued across Yemen despite repeated calls by the UN and western diplomats for Yemeni factions to halt hostilities and focus on approving the UN-brokered peace initiative known as the Joint Declaration. On Thursday, British Ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron called on the internationally recognized President of Yemen Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthis to engage in serious talks to end the war.

“President Hadi and the Houthi leadership must work seriously and urgently with the UN Yemen envoy to end the war in Yemen by concluding the Joint Declaration in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” the ambassador said on Twitter.

The declaration proposes a nationwide truce ahead of the implementation of economic and humanitarian measures. When the fighting stops, the Yemeni parties will be asked to engage in direct talks to discuss postwar political arrangements.