Court orders Culture Ministry to fund play of theater group known for vocal Gezi support
İsmail Saymaz ISTANBUL - Radikal
Founded in 1969 by actor Genco Erkal, Dostlar Tiyatrosu is one of the longest-running private theater troupes in Turkey.An administrative court in Ankara has ordered the Culture Ministry to continue to fund a play staged by one of Turkey’s longest-running private theater troupes, despite its members expressing vocal support for last year’s Gezi protests.
The ministry had argued that the Dostlar Tiyatrosu (Friends Theater) group’s application for public funds to stage Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” did not fill the defined “assessment benchmarks,” fueling accusations that the rejection was an arbitrary decision based on the group’s pro-Gezi stance.
The decision had drawn public criticism, as Dostlar Tiyatrosu, founded by popular actor Genco Erkal in 1969, remains one of Turkey’s most prestigious theater groups.
The court stated in its ruling on July 18 that excluding the troupe from funding was against “the principles of equality and fairness,” and argued that Dostlar Tiyatrosu had made important contributions to the development of the arts.
“It is understood that the theater company that filed the lawsuit met many of the required physical and qualitative conditions,” the ruling stated.
Erkal vocally slammed the government during the Gezi protests, had said that he knew for sure that their application for public funds was in line with procedures and stressed that “state funding did not mean government funding.”
“Many of our plays were censored, our stages were shut down, but even under the military regime of Kenan Evren public assistance was not cut,” he said.
Erkal also noted how some of the actors who participated in the demonstrators had since had difficulties getting new roles.
“Are we surprised by this? No. Because they want to silence the theaters, in the same way that they did with the media,” he said.