ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A theater in the German city of Mulheim recently had to scramble to quickly find a replacement for the Kurdish artist Mem Ararat’s concert scheduled for Dec. 12 after visas to enter the country for members of Ararat’s band were rejected.
The theater decided to replace the popular singer Mem Ararat, who is from Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey, with another Kurdish artist named Mehmet Atli.
“To date, all invited artists have - at least after repeated attempts - received visas for their concerts in Germany,” Theater an der Ruhr said in a press statement.
“Now, for the first time, an event has to be canceled,” it continued. “The guitarist Deniz Kaya and the percussionist Azad Yılmaz from the ensemble of the Kurdish folk musician Mem Ararat are finally denied entry.”
In its formal justification of the refusal, the visa office of the German Embassy in Ankara refers to an alleged “lack of evidence of the roots” of the two musicians in Turkey.
Last year, the Turkish governor of the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir revoked permission for Ararat and his band to perform at a much-anticipated concert there.
Ararat told Kurdistan 24, “I was happy with the invitation; you know that many concerts have not taken place due to various reasons. I accepted the invitation, and the officials of the Mulheim theatre sent me flight and hotel reservations as well as additional documents.”
Ararat and his ensemble prepared all the requested documents and in October visited the German embassy.
“For me, they have issued a visa only for four days – that is a short amount of time, you need to prepare for the concert – and also, they have rejected the visa request of two of my musician friends; apparently based on assumptions that we intended to stay in Germany,” the artist said.
“Per a request from the Mulheim theatre we objected to the decision, adding that we had no intentions of staying or living in Germany – we love our homeland, we prefer to die in our homeland to living in a foreign country. I do not consider a prosperous life for myself outside of Kurdistan.”
Ararat says he explained to the German embassy that denying the visa to his colleagues would lead to the cancelation of the concert and upset their audience in Germany.
“Yet the embassy did not change their decision. I informed the Mulheim theatre that I was surprised by the embassy’s decisions, telling them that I would not be able to perform without my musician friends.”
According to Ararat, they have in the past performed in England, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium without any difficulty obtaining visas.
“I don’t understand why Germany would reject the visa requests. We have been dismayed, not because we couldn’t go to Germany, but because our listeners were waiting for us there.”
Ararat added that many fans have written messages or posts on social media expressing extreme disappointment with the refusal.
“That is what I can say about this subject,” he concluded. “It is a shameful decision. Art must be free; music must be free – this was a shame for the German embassy [in Ankara].”
Mem Ararat is a multi-instrumentalist who was born in the city of Mardin in 1981. He is especially known for playing the Tembur, a long-necked string instrument. Since the release of his first album in 2013, he has conquered the hearts of many fans with his lyrical voice.
Ararat’s latest album, “Xewna Bajarekî” (A City’s Dream), came out in 2018. Along with two previous releases, “Kurdîka” and “Quling Ewr û Baran,” it is a popular download on online music streaming services.
Editing by John J. Catherine