Blind Turkish singer fights for disabled in election
by Anadolu Agency
ISTANBULMay 14, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Anadolu Agency
May 14, 2015 12:00 am
"Do not turn a blind eye to us," so says visually-impaired pop performer Metin Şentürk – one of the more colorful candidates among the thousands campaigning ahead of Turkey's June 7 general election.
A popular, charismatic singer and songwriter, Şentürk has been visually impaired since he was three years of age. Five other members of his family, including his father, are also blind.
Now running for Parliament, he is using his dynamic, humorous and determined personality to highlight disability issues.
Şentürk, 49, does not represent any political party. He is standing as an independent and is working harder than any candidate backed by big party machines. With a modest team of 10 people, he describes his campaign as a "holy" one.
"I am running on an issue that is beyond the political parties," Şentürk told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
"This is a struggle for disabled people, which aims to ease and beautify their life and to remove the obstacles that they have been facing."
There are over 8 million disabled citizens in Turkey, according to Istanbul-based Foundation for the Physically Handicapped.
Şentürk says there are major problems facing disabled people in employment, education and everyday access.
"The employment rate [of disabled people] in companies with over 50 workers is only 3 percent," he says.
Şentürk has never let his disability hold him back. The singer, who is also president of the Istanbul-based World Disability Foundation, also broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest unaccompanied blind driver in 2010.
It was a feat he described as "dancing with death." Now, he is putting his energies into campaigning. "We have elevators in metro stations but we do not think how disabled people can get to these stations. Our roads, streets and pavements are not disabled-friendly," he adds.
In 2002, Lokman Ayva became Turkey's first visually impaired MP, from the ruling Justice and Development Party. Şentürk will be the second blind member, if elected.
He needs to garner around 85,000 votes. The issues facing disabled people should always be on the agenda, he says. "However, we talk about the peace process, the fight against terrorism and urban transformation in this country.
"But we should also not stop talking about the rights of disabled people until we eliminate all the barriers. If I enter Parliament, I will not stop talking and not let people stop talking about this issue. This is my will," he adds.
Although Şentürk focuses on disabled people he also has strong views on tackling drug addiction, the problems of older people and women suffering from violence.
"I will be an eye of all the suffering people," he says. His unusual blend of pop celebrity and deadly serious campaigning has drawn attention to his candidacy. "I am a person who has touched people with my feelings and songs in this country. This is a big advantage for me."
Şentürk has released 17 albums in his 28-year music career, from his first record "Elimdeki Fotografin" [Photo of You in My Hand) in 1987.
"If I enter Parliament, the genre of my music can become a kind of protest music," he said laughing.
When asked what he will do if he fails to win a seat, the singer says, "I am not going to lose this election in terms of votes that I will collect and efforts that I've made (…) I will win this race in any case."
This daring candidate, who broke the Guinness record with a speed of 292.89 kph, remains confident:
"I am going to break another record in this election."