Dissident Turkish actor dismissed from City Theater
ISTANBULDissident Turkish actor Levent Üzümcü, who has been sent to the High Disciplinary Court of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, was dismissed from the Istanbul City Theater over statements critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Speaking about the decision, Üzümcü said, “I am grateful because I have courage to stand against the mistakes as it is confirmed by this decision.”
The official reasons for the investigation are a speech Üzümcü gave at a Socialist International event, the opinions he has shared on his social media accounts and his statements to the press.
In November 2013, a few months after the Gezi protests of June 2013, Üzümcü gave a speech at a Socialist International meeting held in Istanbul, criticizing the ruling AKP.
“Today, our people are encouraged to become informants. It is being normalized to spy on and report people for leading lives that are deemed immoral by certain social standards,” he said.
In addition, Üzümcü clarified he was sent to the disciplinary court of the municipality and not that of the theater due to a controversial amendment to theater regulations. He defined the motion as against the law. “Friends, the attempt to dispel me from the City Theater is completely lawless (what else could be expected of them?) Don’t lose your sleep over it,” he tweeted.
‘Sorry to leave where I belong’
Announcing the news of his dismissal on his Twitter account, the actor said, “I am sorry, because the City Theater does not belong to past or current governments but it belongs to the history of our common story as the people of Turkey. I am very sorry that I am forced to leave where I belong. I am worried that this institution is the toy of the minds that are light years away from perceiving the world of an artist and the mechanism of art. I want you to know that it also makes me worried that I will not be able to meet my audiences in the new season with the very successful ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ which has cost too much money and labor. I thank all my actor friends, my director and creative technical staff for each day we have spent together.”
Following the decision, the Istanbul City Theaters held a press conference Aug. 26 at the Harbiye Muhsin Ertuğrul Stage to support the actor. During the press conference, discipline committee member and theater actress Ayşegül İşsever submitted her resignation in reaction to Üzümcü’s dismissal.
Also, theater actors made a press statement condemning the decision. City Theaters General Art Director Erhan Yazıcıoğlu said they would not resign but continue their fight in the theater.