Woman of the Year for 2015: Nudem Durak

Washington, DC (TFC) – Nudem Durak spent her days in the city of Cizre, Turkey playing her guitar and singing songs to children in the streets. As tensions increased in Turkey between the Turkish government and the Kurds, her city became a focal point of the tension.

The Turkish government wanted to stifle Kurdish sentiment, and specifically any sentiment related to an independent Kurdistan. Until 1991, the Turkish government banned the use of the Kurdish language in almost all forms of public speech. Those laws eventually relaxed although there were still laws on the books about “disseminating Kurdish propaganda.” As tensions increased, it became clear that those laws would be used against anyone speaking out for the Kurds. Nudem continued to sing to the children and to teach them the songs of their Kurdish heritage.

The Turkish government needed someone well known to use as an example. It needed to strike fear into the hearts of the Kurds. Who better than the mild-mannered girl with loose political affiliations who sang to the children of the community? She was arrested for disseminating Kurdish propaganda. After a very confusing court proceeding, Nudem was sentenced. She was given 10.5 years in prison for singing. The government falsely tried to link her to both the KCK and the PKK. Both are designated as terrorist groups in Turkey. Nudem sits in prison.

FreeMuse has repeatedly expressed concern about her case.

YouTube Screen Capture.

YouTube Screen Capture.

Nudem’s case has failed to garner the international attention it deserves because of Turkey’s NATO membership and the unwillingness of media outlets to criticize an ally. So she remains in prison, but her songs are still being sung in the streets of Cizre. She is paying a decade-long price to continue the fight for free expression and the preservation of her culture. Although Nudem may never know she was selected, and the minor recognition we could offer does not soften the pillow in her cell, we hope that her story can be an inspiration to the Kurdish children she taught to sing and people all over the world. It is said that the Kurds have no friend but the mountains. The support from Nudem’s community proved this false. Because of her imprisonment her songs are reaching Kurds and non-Kurds alike. Nudem Durak is the Woman of the Year for 2015.