Turkish police detain second rapper for “encouraging drug use”

The drug squad in Turkey has detained a second rapper in a week, Khontkar, on charges of encouraging drug use through his lyrics.

Khontkar, the stage name for Izmir native Onur Dinç, was detained by the drug squad on Wednesday, six days after the popular rapper Sercan İpekçioğlu, stage name Ezhel, was arrested on the same charges.

Ezhel’s arrest, which police said was made as a result of alleged references to drug use in his lyrics and social media posts, was decried among social media users in Turkey, thousands of whom protested under the hashtag #FreeEzhel.

The detention of Khontkar, an artist signed to the Sony-owned Basemode Records label whose song “Mary Jane” reverently refers to cannabis use, aroused similar indignation among Twitter users who again rallied around a hashtag, #FreeKhontkar, to call for the rapper’s release.

Many of the tweets under the hashtag asked why police were using their resources to apprehend musicians for their lyrics, while one pointed out the hypocrisy of targeting rappers for encouraging drug use while a pro-government columnist for the Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit was free to call for legalised cannabis and opium use in a column in January.

Several others addressed tweets to U.S. rapper Wiz Khalifa, famous for his enthusiastic lyrics on cannabis use including in a song like Khontkar’s titled “Mary Jane,” warning him of the arrests ahead of his planned concert in Istanbul on Jul. 4.

Turkey’s recent authoritarian turn has accelerated since the announcement of a – still ongoing – state of emergency shortly after the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Thousands have been arrested or removed from their positions since then, many of these allegedly on political charges.

In an article published on Ahval, Wikimedia UK Communications Coordinator John Lubbock described Ezhel’s arrest as a “desperate act” designed to distract from “the systemic failures that the Turkish government cannot bear to address.”