Intro to Susamam
“As the days go by in a rush
You’ve forgotten why you exist
And you are unaware of the problems
You want to laugh
You want to have fun
Life is tough as is
You want music to entertain you
To whisk you away from reality
But we believe that music can bring about change
Come with us
Shall we begin?”
When a country is oppressed, its people start to realize how their vocabulary narrows down. Slowly limitations on speech and thought occur. Most people remain silent, bury all the injustice inside and put aside everything that’s going wrong. They become blind and mute.
In that pit of darkness, the painful echo of truth was heard.
On September 5, 2019, a 14-minute Turkish rap song was uploaded on YouTube at exactly 12 a.m. and reached 10 million views within two days. Şanışer (Sarp Palaur), a Turkish rapper known for his controversial lyrics, collaborated with 17 artists and created “Susamam” which translates to “I won’t be silenced.” The song was a wake-up call and invited all of Turkey to speak up.
Each artist was given a topic to cover and write lyrics for. The music videos were filmed at different locations and later edited into a single video. “We were aware that by acting as one, we could reach a much wider audience but we still didn’t expect this amount of success,” Pauler said in an interview he gave to Diken, an online Turkish newspaper.
The lyrics touch upon topics such as nature, drought, women’s rights, violence against women, animal rights, justice, law, Istanbul, education, suicide and fascism. These topics, alongside many others, are uniquely placed within the song and overall represent the distaste and dissatisfaction of Turkey’s current system — a system in which democracy is crumbling.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been ruling for nearly two decades. Half of the country has accepted the heavily centralized presidential system put forward by its current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leaving liberal democracy behind. The country has moved toward a more conservative view and tolerance of diversity continues to fade.. After the July 2016 failed coup attempt, which was seen as an attack on Turkey’s democratic values, Erdogan took this as an opportunity to eliminate any remaining opposition and slowly transformed Turkey’s parliamentary system into a one-man show.
Over 150,000 people including judges, prosecutors, journalists, police officers, and scholars were either detained or fired in a witch hunt set off by the government. The number grows daily.
“Nothing will change, we must revolt. This is not the message I am trying to convey. We can all change a small part of ourselves and make the world a better place. If we can have our voices heard, speak up against injustice… conserve water, provide equal opportunities, or at least be aware of what’s going on around us, this may even be enough,” Saniser said in his interview with Diken.
Listening to the song, as a Turk, I was on the verge of tears for my country. It felt as if someone was translating the things I wanted to say. I also noticed most of the topics were not only about Turkey; they were universal. I’ve picked some of the most important parts of the song so that the song can reach people all around the world.
[Verse 1: Fuat] (Nature)
“At the time of Genghis Khan, death was the price you paid for washing your hands in a river
We migrated and decayed trashing the place we’ve fuckin’ up our three seas
The unpredictable bastard he breathes exhaust gas and he’s now having a barbecue!
Mother Nature weeps blood
Arrogance is at an all time high!
Factory chimneys emit smoke
Nuclear reactors, hazardous waste
‘Electro smoke’ is always on attack
The biggest parasite is man just look at the planet!
Man isn’t even on the same level as animals
He changed things up, then couldn’t adapt
The tab is for the next generation to pay
Doomsday’s is here, watch like an idiot!”
Laws that protect the environment from construction and development have been systematically altered in order to allow projects favoured by the government to proceed. They have no regulations and have no consideration for the environment. A forest law known as 2B has changed the status of forests to non-forests, allowing construction. The idea of “urban transformation” has led to a decrease of natural preserves in Turkey.
[Verse 3: Şanışer] (Law)
“I’m a white turk
My laws stem from anglo-saxons but my mind is middle-eastern
I grew up apolitical
I never voted
I’ve devoted myself to holidays, traveling and debts
Justice died along the way
I remained silent until it turned on me
Now I’m too scared to send out a tweet
I fear my own country’s police
I’m sorry to say, but this hopeless generation is your creation
This miserable part is your creation and the sound of guns!
Innocent people rotting away in jail without even knowing why
This is your work of art.
This terrifying picture is your creation and this tired voice of mine
Corrupt politicians building their wealth on the back of the poor and using up their taxes,
It’s your art.
You’ve never encountered death, never felt that anguish
Always a cup of coffee in your hand
All you care about is your wannabe “Startup”
Now, that the protection justice provides is gone, it will come knocking and break down your door!
You’ve acquitted child-killers just because they were cops, you didn’t say a word, you played a part in this, you are guilty!
Because you mourned for two days and then moved on
You forgot the name of the judge
Who released Tugce and Busra’s killers!
Now if something happens to you, which law will you rely on?
If they are falsely arrested one night, there is not a single journalist left to report this because they’re all locked away!
The lives taken by released killers (They will never come back)
Wasted years in prison on false charges (They will never come back)
You remained silent
You were overpowered because you were quiet
They took away all of your rights and they won’t be giving them back!”
[Verse 4: Hayki] (Justice)
“Justice is supposedly the foundation of this country
It’s turned deaf, won’t listen to you
Traditions, morals, customs
Tell me, If the one before this was bad, the current one any better?
Is this civilized?
We can’t even afford what your dog won’t eat
Your police can’t pull out his gun and shoot whoever he wants in broad daylight!
Media, press, law, military while they all work for you
Young boys are out at the crack of dawn, the sun shining upon them and they go to work, putting their lives on the line
Hate is your weapon!
These aren’t our sins to pay
Your plan is all nice!
I don’t know who believes this
But I do know this
Our weapons are our words!”
Tugce and Busra, 10-year-old girls, were found dead more than a month after their disappearance. Their killers were set free even though there was substantial DNA evidence against both. This is only one incident among thousands more.
More than 100 media outlets were shut down by the Turkish government, and any other media outlets who criticize or shed negative light onto the government are still under threat.
The Turkish military is now solely under government control. It has shut down military academies and put its defense minister in command. They dismissed more than 50,000 Turkish armed forces members, police, judges and bureaucrats, replacing them with people in favor of the government.
More than 300 journalists are currently in jail.
Many civilians were injured and some were killed during protests. The death of a 15-year-old, Berkin Elvan, in a Gezi protest, sparked further violent clashes between protestors and police. He was hit on the head by a tear gas bottle that was thrown by an officer. This is one incident among many.
[Verse 8: Sokrat St] (Education)
“I will graduate!
I’ll give you some money, you give me a diploma
Or else I must work til I sweat
As a college student I exploit equal opportunities in education
I’m a rascal because of the system you’ve created
I’ll be a cashier or I’ll be your usher at the movies!
A campus on every street but village schools are in tragic need
Whatever ideology the government has is what is taught in class
Rich, poor separated according to their money or backing
Education is just like an industry making illegal profit from construction!
One doesn’t even have the money to buy books
An unemployed teacher who doesn’t know “the right people”
You know a member of parliament? Wow!
You’ll never understand if that’s how you live!
At least help out a village school
You should help them too!
The kid barely slept last night
build him a road for his school!”
Graduates are struggling to find decent jobs that pay more than labor-based jobs. A lot of them get hired only if they have strong connections with people higher up, and the ones that don’t are eliminated immediately during the interview process. Funds are provided towards universities but not elementary and middle schools in villages. Many of these schools across the country are struggling. They are not provided with books or other materials. Their classrooms need renovations and they are overpopulated.
[Verse 10: Deniz Tekin] (Women’s rights/violence against women)
“I wouldn’t know
I’ve never had to defend myself
I wouldn’t know, I’ve never had to worry about a child
I’ve never been forced to marry
There was no abuse in my home
In my own home I’ve never been imprisoned in my room
I’ve never been indoctrinated
I’ve never been displaced
I’ve never been burned with hatred
I was never burned to death
I never had siblings
I’ve never been afraid of my older brother
I’ve never been pulled out of school
I’ve never been murdered!”
The numbers of rape and murder of women have skyrocketed and justice is not being served. The laws are seen as insufficient, leading to many protests but nothing has changed. Hundreds of rapists are not imprisoned. Hundreds of murderers were set free. Since the beginning of 2019, more than 200 women have been murdered. Emine Bulut and Tugba Erkol, killed in front of their children, are among the victims.
There will come a day
When these guilty words will be imprisoned
Defeated I’ll disappear they won’t notice
I won’t stay silent
I can’t stay silent
Don’t be afraid come
There will come a day
When these guilty words will be imprisoned
Defeated I’ll disappear they won’t notice
I won’t stay silent
I can’t stay silent”
[Verse 15: Sokrat St] (Suicide)
“Don’t go! (Don’t go)
We can change a lot of things in life
Don’t be stubborn!
We all give up at one point in time
Now clench your fist
Put an end to your silence
Remember how strong you stood when you got angry!
Hate inside, hate outside
Don’t love anything more than life itself
I can’t create a new world for you but I can hold your hand
Let everyone leave you but don’t leave the world
I’m not judging you
I will never fully understand your pain
I leave it behind if it becomes too heavy and I walk down my own path
Please look at the mirror say ‘I love you’”
Top artists in Turkey supported the song through twitter. Nurgul Yesilcay, the actress, tweeted, “Thankfully rap has finally transitioned from dissing artists into real rap. For years, I always thought, ‘Is this their only concern?’ but now I see that it wasn’t. They have put their hands under the rock. It is amazing, gives hope. #susamam #olay.”
However, organizations and people close to the government were not on the same page.
Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper known to be one of the leading media organizations in the grip of the current ruling party, AKP, reported that the song was produced by terrorist groups within Turkey. They also emphasized how foreign country outlets such as BBC and Deutsche Welle carried it to an international platform with not-so-pure intentions. Many other government-associated outlets had similar headlines.
People who support the government took to twitter and accused the artists of being backed up by America and Israel. Palaur tweeted, “Some media outlets are calling me a terrorist and saying my work was backed up by America and Israel. I wanted to respond and here is my response: puhahahahahahahaha.”
It was devastating to see how fast the song was pulled away from the spotlight. People were only able to support it via Twitter but then stopped tweeting about it out of fear of being associated with terrorist groups.
The vice president of AKP, Hamza Dag tweeted, “Music shouldn’t be a means to provoke and manipulate political views.”
One of the collaborators, rapper Defkan, announced that he is no longer a part of the project and that he doesn’t want to be associated with it. The government was once again successful in frightening people into silence.
The party turned out to be a poisoned chalice.