Guess who’s not coming to Turkey?
EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Sometimes things break out into public feuds when the guest in question is someone of international fame who has offended Turkish pride. Paul Auster, Madonna, U2’s Bono and Emir Kusturica are among these guests. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAUSA.COMTurkish people like to boast about their hospitality. They enjoy being thought of abroad as having a culture that takes pride in opening its doors to everyone. However, there are times when hospitality turns into hostility. Sometimes things break out into public feuds when the guest in question is someone of international fame who has somehow offended the very delicate Turkish pride.
Earlier in February, the unwelcome guest was the American novelist Paul Auster, and the person who made it public that Auster was not welcome in Turkey was none other than Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. After his latest book, Winter Journal, was published in Turkey months before its publication in the USA, Auster gave an interview to daily Hürriyet, in which he said that he refused to visit Turkey “because of imprisoned journalists and writers.”
Erdoğan shot back the next day, “As if we need you? Who cares if you come or not? Would Turkey lose prestige?” Calling him “ignorant,” Erdoğan accused Auster of hypocrisy for having visited Israel. “Aren’t these the ones that rained bombs on Gaza?” he wondered.
The spat continued when Auster released a statement, reminding Erdoğan of the fact that “no writers or journalists are in jail” in Israel, and that “in order to improve conditions in our countries, in every country, the freedom to speak and publish without censorship or the threat of imprisonment is a sacred right for all men and women.” While the war of words died out within a week, Auster’s book shot to number one in the best sellers.
Paul Auster might not be coming to Turkey anytime soon, but news of an impending guest of a much bigger scale rocked the media last week, when Madonna announced her upcoming world tour dates, the third place in the itinerary was Istanbul.
Madonna not welcome in Turkey?
Ever since her concert as part of the Girlie Show in 1993 in Istanbul, it has always been a topic of discussion whether the Material Girl would again include Turkey in her various subsequent tours. The discussions always ended on a sour note, as Turkey was repeatedly left off the list. However, Istanbul will host the most famous entertainer in the world on June 7 this year.
Almost unanimously, the media, fans and pop culture aficionados all cheered the news of Madonna coming to Istanbul. However, pop culture in Turkey has its fair share of noisemaker celebrities, who like stirring controversies whenever they are off the radar. Nihat Doğan is one of those names.
Having began a music career in the early 1990s before quickly falling into obscurity, Doğan became a household name when he launched into a very public relationship with music and TV diva Seda Sayan five years ago. After a few months as a lovey-dovey couple in the limelight, the couple split. But Doğan wasn’t ready to give up the sweet taste of fame. He used and abused every opportunity to have his name heard, eventually becoming the most annoying (and most talked about) name in the Turkish version of Celebrity Survivor.
Doğan’s latest attempt to stay on the radar came hours after the announcement of Madonna’s latest performance in Istanbul. He immediately began a campaign on Twitter for Madonna not to come to Istanbul, on the grounds that in one of her videos, Madonna steps on sacred writings from the Quran.
The video is that for 1994’s “Bedtime Story,” and the said Arabic writing is nothing other than the lines in the song: “And all that you’ve ever learned, try to forget. I’ll never explain again.” This appears during a dream sequence with surrealistic, mystic, New Age and Sufi imagery. Madonna fans are urgently waiting for something to distract Doğan’s attention, if only out of sheer embarrassment.
With or without U2
A similar brouhaha erupted weeks before U2 took stage in September 2010 in Istanbul, their first ever visit to Turkey. It was a long-awaited event for many, with 50,000 filling the Atatürk Olympic Stadium for the concert. But it was not a happy occasion for some, who were not keen on the band’s pop activism and Bono’s outspoken persona, as he had cited Turkey as a country in violation of human rights more than once.
In the sleeve notes of the band’s 1997’s album “Pop” was written: “Remember Fehmi Tosun, who disappeared in Turkey October 1995.” Tosun was one of the many victims of Turkey’s troubled 1980s and 1990s. Groups were created in social media, some reaching thousands of members. They accused Bono and U2 of hypocrisy, and asked them to acknowledge that human rights violations are no better in Turkey now.
The backlash increased when it was announced that the band would meet Prime Minister Erdoğan, and later when the band walked across the Bosphorus Bridge with the EU Minister Egemen Bağış. “Where is the antagonistic voice of Bono now?” asked the creator of one of the Facebook groups, who refused to go to the concert. Many who went to the concert were not happy when Bono mentioned Bağış’s name, and immediately Bono said he would refrain from mentioning the names of politicians.
Just one month after the U2 concert, another acclaimed name experienced the less savory side of Turkish hospitality. When Bosnia-Serbian director Emir Kusturica, the two-time winner of Palme D’Or, was announced as being on the jury for the prestigious Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in October 2010, all hell broke loose.
An organization called the Turkish Bosnia-Herzegovina Cultural Associations Federation accused Kusturica of supporting the Serbian genocide of Muslims in Bosnia, and asked the festival to remove him from his role as a jury member. Soon, award-winning Turkish director Semih Kaplanoğlu, Minister of Culture Ertuğrul Günay, and representatives from the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, joined the chorus.
Kusturica ultimately withdrew from the Golden Orange Film Festival jury, saying that the protests reflected “barbarism and primitiveness,” and that he was a known “anti-imperialist.” With all these examples, perhaps it is high time that we stopped boasting about our hospitality.