Pandemic threatens livelihood of Turkish musicians, driving many to suicide

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

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?”


Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots

Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots
Updated 49 min 26 sec ago

Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots

Tunisia arrests over 600, deploys troops after riots
  • The unrest came after Tunisia imposed a nationwide lockdown to stem a rise in coronavirus infections on Thursday

TUNIS: More than 600 people have been arrested and troops have been deployed after a third consecutive night of riots in several Tunisian cities, officials said Monday.
The unrest came after Tunisia imposed a nationwide lockdown to stem a rise in coronavirus infections on Thursday — the same day as it marked the 10th anniversary of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall from power.
Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said a total of 877 people were arrested, notably “groups of people between the ages of 15, 20 and 25 who burned tires and bins in order to block movements by the security forces.”
Defense ministry spokesman Mohamed Zikri meanwhile said the army has deployed reinforcements in several areas of the country.
Hayouni said that some of those arrested lobbed stones at police and clashed with security forces.
“This has nothing to do with protest movements that are guaranteed by the law and the constitution,” said Hayouni.
“Protests take place in broad daylight normally... without any criminal acts involved,” he added.
Hayouni said two policemen were wounded in the unrest.
It was not immediately clear if there were injuries among the youths and Hayouni did not say what charges those arrested faced.
The clashes took place in several cities across Tunisia, mostly in working-class neighborhoods, with the exact reasons for the disturbances not immediately known.
But it came as many Tunisians are increasingly angered by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proved unable to govern coherently a decade on from the 2011 revolution.
GDP shrank by nine percent last year, consumer prices have spiralled and one third of young people are unemployed.
The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a string of deadly jihadist attacks in 2015, has been dealt a devastating blow by the pandemic.
Tunisia has registered more than 177,000 coronavirus infections, including over 5,600 deaths since the pandemic erupted last year.
The four-day lockdown ended on Sunday night, but it was not immediately know if other restrictions would be imposed.


The army has deployed troops in Bizerte in the north, Sousse in the east and Kasserine and Siliana in central Tunisia, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Sousse, a coastal resort overlooking the Mediterranean, is a magnet for foreign holidaymaking that has been hit hard by the pandemic.
The health crisis and ensuing economic misery have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to seek to leave the country.
On Sunday evening in Ettadhamen, a restive working-class neighborhood on the edge of the Tunisian capital, the mood was sombre.
“I don’t see any future here,” said Abdelmoneim, a waiter, as the unrest unfolded around him.
He blamed the violence on the country’s post-revolution political class and said the rioting youths were “bored adolescents” who reflected the “failure” of politicians.
Abdelmoneim said he was determined to take a boat across the Mediterranean to Europe “as soon as possible, and never come back to this miserable place.”
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