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Pianist Fazıl Say is Withdrawn From Concerts in Switzerland

The Turkish pianist has been removed from four concerts based on comments he made on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict


Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say was set to perform with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on October 23, 24, 25, and 26 in Zurich, Bern, Geneva, and Lucerne, respectively.

The performances were canceled by the concerts’ organizers and officials from Switzerland’s MIGROS company, which cited Say's posts on social media as the reason. 

Say has since reposted the speech he made regarding the conflict on October 13, 2023, “to prevent any potential misunderstandings and present it to [his] international followers as well.”

In the video, Say criticizes Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Some of my friends have messaged me, offended about my post from the other day where I criticized Netanyahu’s policies," he writes. "I don’t say Israel is bad or the Arabs are bad. These arguments are completely nonsensical to me. I find these debates primitive."

"But one is certain, in human rights, every person should be equal. If we have a philosophy that people should live happily in this world, live in peace…. the things happening to the Palestinians are an obstacle to that."

"Netanyahu’s ruthless policy, what’s happening in Gaza, it’s an open-air prison. The world knows this….a solution had to be found, but it wasn’t. Years and years passed and this thing that doesn’t sit well with us has continued."

He goes on to support Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stance on the issue. “I immediately invite all states and international organizations to sincerely support the efforts to establish a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,” Erdoğan wrote. “Turkey will continue to do its part to ensure that there is no more innocent bloodshed, no more humanitarian tragedies and the conflicts in Palestine reach an irreversible point.”

According to the Times of India, Omer Celik, a spokesman for Erdoğan’s ruling AKP party, has condemned the cancellation of Say’s Europe concerts “because of his ideas opposing Israel’s inhumane attacks” on Palestinians.

A MIGROS spokesperson recently confirmed to AFP News that Say has been replaced by Swiss pianist Louis Schwizgebel for the scheduled concerts. 

“The reason for this change is that Fazil Say’s public statements after the terrorist attack against Israel are not defendable for MIGROS,” the company said in a statement sent to AFP.

Say responded to the decision to cancel his concerts with a statement on Facebook:

"During the Middle East crisis, I posted a total of 3 tweets and a video where I spoke.

I am for peace, and all my statements were in the spirit of peace. And I have always been in favor of the good, of compromise, and of jointly seeking a beautiful future.

As someone who has been to Israel for 24 years, I have been saddened by terrorist incidents like everyone else. I have always had an approach that seeks to understand both sides of this troubled issue. I also wrote that I find Netanyahu's war politics, which have no future, to be very wrong and cruel. And finally, I found Erdoğan's approach to this issue "sensible and peaceful" for both sides, and I supported it.

While I find it strange and even disturbing that discomfort has arisen from all of this, and it has turned into a one-sided concert cancellation, there is nothing I can do about it from my perspective. We are in an environment where we are not being heard, where our voices are not wanted to be heard.

I had trusted that in Europe we can rely on freedom of expression, I knew it as darkness and lack of understanding would not be experienced. I want to point out that my trust has been significantly shaken in the face of this disturbing incident.
Every individual should have an opinion. And more importantly, these opinions should not affect our professional lives.

I am on the side of peace and humanity. And I make music to give hope to people."

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