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Killed for being Kurdish - state denies racist motivation for murder of construction worker

FAMILY members of a Kurdish man stabbed to death in the Turkish capital Ankara for listening to Kurdish music in a racist attack have hit back at officials who sought to downplay his murder.

Baris Cakan was at a park with friends on Sunday night when they were set upon by a group of Turkish nationalists who warned them over the music playing from their car stereo.

A cousin, Dogan Cakan, initially told the Mesopotamia News Agency that his family told him the group was attacked by “racist fascists” who confronted them over the noise and berated them for listening to “Kurdish music.”

He told reporters from the respected news agency that his cousin had been stabbed to death and “killed because he listened to Kurdish music.”

It was not the first time that the group of friends had been threatened for playing such music, Mr Cakan’s cousin said.

“Some have accused us of creating a false perception, but the news is correct. He is my relative.

“Some claimed he was a member of an organisation. But he was a construction worker who never hurt a fly,” he wrote on Twitter.

Reports of the murder have spread widely on social media, prompting a rebuttal from governor Vasip Sahin from Turkey’s ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), who denied it was a racist attack, accusing the news agency of spreading “propaganda.”

He claimed that the attack occurred because the group was playing loud music and disrupting the Azan prayer recital.

Mr Sahin claimed that the murder was being used as “a tool for provocation” — an accusation that can carry serious consequences for journalists in Turkey, which tops the world list for detained media workers.

Following the governor’s intervention, Mr Cakan’s cousin thanked the police for their efforts and retweeted the statement, reversing his initial claims and confirming the AKP official’s account of the event as correct.

His father Nihat Cakan also explained to the Mesopotamia News Agency that his son’s friend told him that the group were attacked for disrupting prayers, dismissing earlier claims that it was because of Kurdish music.

But his grandparents confirmed to the agency that the original story was correct and that it was a racist murder, implying that the family and friends of Mr Cakan had been put under pressure to retract their claims by the authorities.

Veli Cokyaman thanked the news agency for telling the truth about the incident and said that the governor’s office was deliberately distorting it. He confirmed that Mr Cakan’s mother said that her son had been killed for playing Kurdish music, a fact backed by his friends.

The Kurdish language was banned in Turkey for decades, with even mention of the word “Kurd” a criminal offence until 1991.

Most famously, musician Ahmet Kaya was attacked with forks and spoons at a live televised music award ceremony in 1999 after he announced his wish to “sing in the Kurdish language.”

He was denounced as a terrorist and traitor by the Turkish authorities, with the press accusing him of membership of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Kurdish singer fled the country and was jailed in absentia for three years for “spreading terrorist propaganda” in March 2000.

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