Turkish government appoints trustee to musical society after pro-gov't musicians visit to Erdoğan

Turkey's AKP government appointed a trustee administration to Musical Work Owners’ Society, dismissing the existing management after pro-government musicians' visit to President Erdoğan's palace
Orhan Gencebay (L) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R).
Tuesday, 06 March 2018 21:22

Turkey's AKP government appointed a trustee administration to the Musical Work Owners’ Society of Turkey (MESAM), seizing the existing administration ahead of the organization’s general assembly.

Established in 1986, MESAM is a professional union to protect the rights of musicians and producers around the country.

Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry's move for appointing a trustee management came after an inner crisis of the musical organization as Orhan Gencebay, arabesque singer and composer, criticized the MESAM administration and resigned from the union. Gencebay is known with his overt support to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP party. 

Gencebay recently resigned from the organization, blaming it for "getting organized on the basis of ethnic roots and beliefs", implying the Alevi musicians, and criticized Arif Sağ, another Turkish musician and the dismissed chair of the musical organization. Sağ and his fellows responded Gencebay and criticized him for "attempting to manage the organization undemocratically as if it were his own private enterprise".  

Gencebay implies the Alevi identity of anti-government musicians in an attempt to show his supportive stance towards the Islamist government. "Alevism is not a religion. It seems to be an institution within Islam," Erdoğan previously said, showing political Islamists’ exclusionary approach to millions of Alevi citizens in the country. Making up about 15-20 percent of Turkey's 76 million people, Alevis practising distinct rituals which can put them at odds with their Sunni Muslim counterparts, many of whom accuse them of heresy.

Known as an anti-government figure, Arif Sağ is a famous Turkish folk musician who was also a lawmaker from the Social Democratic Populist Party between 1987 and 1991. He survived the Sivas massacre in 1993 when 33 people, mostly leftist intellectuals with Alevi origins, were murdered as an Islamist group set fire a hotel in the Turkish city of Sivas. 

Stating that their board management under the presidency of Arif Sağ has not carried out any irregularity or corruption as all the inspections proved, the dismissed MESAM administration said that the organization had faced a huge loss around $2,37 million when Gencebay had resigned 8 years ago while their administration both recovered the loss and made the organization profitable.


Ahead of the government’s decision to appoint a new administration, Gencebay and other pro-AKP musicians like Yavuz Bingöl visited Erdoğan for the president’s birthday ceremony at his palace in Ankara. Later, the government pressed the button to launch an operation against the artistic organization and appointed a trustee administration composed of pro-government figures.

Meanwhile, the dismissed board members made a press statement on March 6, declaring that they will appeal to a court as a result of the Turkish culture ministry’s unlawful move in the appointment of a trustee administration.

Arif Sağ, the famous musician who has been fighting cancer and went to Cuba for treatment recently, was taken to a hospital in the same day following stressful days and accusations towards himself and his administration.

Many Turkish citizens criticize Orhan Gencebay and Yavuz Bingöl, the new member of MESAM appointed by the government, for acting like the jesters of Erdoğan’s palace since they often appear at presidential ceremonies and make sycophantic statements in support of the government.