Turkish pianist tells government not to fear artists

The culture ministry rejected the censorship claims and dismissed the musicians letter as a "publicity stunt"

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World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say appealed to the government on Thursday not to be "afraid" of artists after he claimed that his works were removed from a state-funded orchestras repertoire.

The 44-year-old virtuoso, who has had many run-ins with the authorities, wrote an open letter to the government in which he denounced a "crackdown" on artists.

Say, a strong opponent of the Islamic-rooted government, said his works had been removed from the Presidential Symphony Orchestra programme for the upcoming season.

"Change your oppressive attitude that sparks outrage and confusion in the whole world," Say said in the letter published in the local media.

"The world condemns this oppression... Stop being destructive." he added.

"Dont be afraid of art and artists. We are not a military force. We are just musicians, actors, dancers, humans, ordinary people."

The culture ministry rejected the censorship claims and dismissed the musicians letter as a "publicity stunt".

"We are following with worry the reports and statements aimed at creating an impression that there is censorship on art in our country and blowing the whistle on Turkey to other countries," the ministry said in a statement.

"There is no censorship of the musician or his works at all. His musical pieces have not been removed," it said, adding that one of the musicians works had been included in the repertoire.

"These statements should be dismissed as a publicity stunt and attempts to mislead the public."

Say, an atheist, has often criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), accusing it of having a secret agenda to promote conservative values in Turkey.

The pianist, who has played with the philharmonic orchestras of Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel, was handed a 10-month suspended jail term last year over Twitter posts deemed religiously offensive.

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