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PACBI-Open Letter to Sabahat Akkiraz & band, boycott the Israel Oud Festival

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Refrain Playing Israel | 23 October 2013

Open Letter to Sabahat Akkiraz & band, boycott the Israel Oud Festival

This OPEN LETTER asks Turkish singer Sabahat Akkiraz, who performs folk and Sufi music (here in a Palestinian keffiyeh )to cancel her gig in apartheid Israel.   Akkiraz is on twitter at


Dear Sabahat Akkiraz and band members Tayyar Erdem, Savaş Gövtepe, Mustafa Dogan, Mehmet Sarialtun, and Alsan Ozan Aslan,

We at DPAI (Don’t Play Apartheid Israel) support the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel, and we are urging you to cancel your plans to perform for a segregated audience at the Israeli Oud Festival in Jerusalem scheduled for Saturday, 9 November 2013, 21:00, Jerusalem Theater, Henry Crown Hall.  Palestinian civil society has called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel's policies of colonialism, occupation and apartheid towards the Palestinian people.


Israel's attempts to hide systematic decades-long oppression and human-rights abuses against the Palestinians depend on its ability to maintain the facade of a  progressive and democratic image in the eyes of the international community. Israel often goes as far as promoting itself as "the only democracy in the Middle East.”   Israel's apartheid policies, however, even permeate events as joyous as concerts: Palestinian fans of your music living under the Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank or its medieval siege of the Gaza Strip will be prohibited from coming to Jerusalem to enjoy your performance. These 4 million people who are being denied their most fundamental rights include many Palestinian women, who will not have the chance to be empowered by hearing you sing.

The Palestinian people are denied elementary freedoms: the freedom of movement, the freedom to access their stolen lands and the freedom to protest injustice without facing brutal repression.[2] Those living in the Gaza strip (56% of whom are children) live under a debilitating siege, limiting their access to water, medical supplies, and construction material.[3] This unimaginable situation takes place only about an hour away from your scheduled performance. In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, just minutes away from the scheduled venue, children are being abducted from their homes, in violation of international law, and taken into violent police interrogations with no access to their parents or a lawyer.

Representatives of Palestinian civil society, including over 170 different organizations such as women, academic and worker groups, have called for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s policies. International artists are asked not to perform in Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law and reverses these policies.

Some artists perform in Israel with the good will and intention to use their art as a means of changing Israeli public opinion and spreading the message of peace. One such example would be Roger Waters. These artists have later come to realize that their performance, as well-meaning as it was, has been hijacked and used to send a green light to the ongoing Israeli policies of oppression.  Your performance is already being flaunted by the Israeli establishment here:  

“Sabahat Akkiraz, a member of the Turkish Parliament, is an outstanding Turkish folk vocalist, widely acclaimed as one of the foremost creators and performers of ethnic music. This is her Israel premier...Sabahat Akkiraz has recorded more than twenty albums, appeared worldwide and received numerous awards, including the Golden Butterfly in 2010 for Best Performance of Folk Music in Turkey. She has participated in numerous musical projects in Turkey and abroad. Her one-time performance in Israel closes this year's Oud Festival.”


Not performing is important for the promotion of justice in this region, as Israeli policy makers are coming to understand that global civil society does not approve of their brutal policies towards the people of Palestine. Some prominent artists have stated:

Roger Waters: “In my view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza, and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance. For me it means declaring my intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their governments racist and colonial policies, by joining a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it satisfies three basic human rights demanded in international law.”

In 2012, Ross Daly, Giorgos Xylouris, Giorgos Manolakis, and Kelly Thoma cancelled plans to play at the Israel Oud Festival, stating  “After all, we're musicians with feelings and sensibilities, not music machines which can operate under all and any circumstances.”

Macy Gray: “I had a reality check and I stated that I definitely would not have played there if I had known even the little that I know now.”

Cassandra Wilson: “as a human rights activist, I identify with the cultural boycott of Israel.”


Sabahat Akkiraz, understanding that the picket line has clearly been marked and that you cannot avoid taking a political stand on this matter, we are now asking you to take a moral stand. Please reconsider your participation in whitewashing Israeli apartheid.  Stand against oppression and for liberation, against deep rooted racism and in favor of justice and equality for all.



We are a group, of over 1000 members, representing many countries around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.

Posted on 25-10-2013

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