Turkey on Tuesday honored the once-defamed Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya, who died in France in exile 13 years ago, granting him an award posthumously.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul handed the Presidential Grand Art and Culture Award to Kaya’s widow Gulten Kaya at an awards ceremony in Ankara, underlining the “unifying impact” of the singer’s artistic life.
“Through his music, interpretation and discourse, he brought together a lot of people from different views,” Gul said.
The singer and composer was a successful musician in Turkey before he died of a heart attack at the age of 43 in Paris, where he is now buried.
But the ultra-nationalist atmosphere of the time made it especially difficult for Kurdish musicians to openly express their cultural identity.
In 1999, Kaya drew ire from famous figures at an awards ceremony when he took to the stage and announced plans to record an all-Kurdish language album.
A lawsuit and the ensuing media lynch campaign forced Kaya to head for France.
Since then, Turkey has introduced a number of reforms for its 15-million strong Kurdish community, scrapping restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language and launching public television channels that broadcast in Kurdish.
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