Turkish singer and writer Livaneli quits UNESCO to protest damage to heritage, rights abuse
ISTANBUL – ReutersFamous singer Zülfü Livaneli, Turkey’s goodwill ambassador to the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, resigned on May 26, accusing it of hypocrisy in ignoring the destruction of large parts of a heritage site during clashes between the Turkish army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
With Roman-era basalt walls encircling historic houses, churches, synagogues and mosques, the city of Diyarbakır’s Sur district was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015.
Weeks later, clashes in the town resumed.
Sur was the site of some of the fiercest fighting and has been under military lockdown since December.
“As the demolition of history is taking place in Sur, hypocrisy dominated the [Istanbul] World Humanitarian Summit,” Livaneli, a novelist, filmmaker, composer and singer said in tendering his resignation from United Nations cultural agency on May 26, accusing the government of violating human rights.
“To pontificate on peace while remaining silent against such violations is a contradiction of the fundamental ideals of UNESCO,” said Livaneli, who had held the goodwill post to promote UNESCO values since 1996.
This week’s U.N. humanitarian summit in Istanbul, billed as the first of its kind and attracting 55 heads of state and government, sought to raise funds and political will to tackle the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, with 130 million people displaced by war and natural disasters.
Large tracts of Sur on the banks of the Tigris river, once home to 24,000 mostly lower-income residents who have all left, have been bulldozed. Historic monuments bear battle scars.
Authorities have promised to rebuild Sur to reflect its historical importance. They accuse the PKK of storing weapons and harboring fighters in Sur.
Works including “Bliss” by Livaneli have been translated into at least 37 languages. He is also one of Turkey’s most popular singers.
He served for three years as a lawmaker in the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) before quitting in 2005 to protest party’s “authoritarian” politics.