It was AKP that banned the Dersim documentary

It was AKP that banned the Dersim documentary


Can an apology start with “if needed be”? Is the venue of an official apology the meeting of the heads of provincial branches of the ruling party? How much of an apology is it that does not have a concrete response? How consistent is it when the Turkification policy, which cannot be limited only to history, is still alive?

While the prime minister’s Dersim apology and his sincerity are being debated, “what has happened to the ‘Dersim 38’ documentary” must be included in this debate. Why?

Because, as soon as the topic fell to the agenda, the documentary Dersim 38 is referred to by those in the know as the most comprehensive study in the field. You should remember the name of the director Çayan Demirel from his “Prison Number 5,” which was awarded the best documentary in Golden Orange.

Demirel was not able to send his documentary “Dersim 38” to any domestic festival; he could not present it in any public sphere; he was not able to distribute it on DVD, because the Culture and Tourism Ministry “consistently” blocked it.

Let’s explain this insistence more openly: Demirel, who is from Dersim and has lost 54 people from his family in the massacre, started his documentary in 2003.

Günay’s statement

When Demirel completed the documentary, he applied to the Culture Ministry. He wanted to obtain management rights for the work. But the film was not deemed worthy of that license. It was evaluated, mixed in a cocktail of reasons like “protection of the public order, public moral, protection of spiritual and physical health of minors and the youth, non-uniformity with human honor” and was thus banned. Offices of governors and security departments obstructed its screening in several festivals. The reasoning was not to give rise to provocation.

Demirel went to court challenging this ban at Ankara’s 7th Administrative Court. Meanwhile, Onur Öymen from Republican People’s Party (CHP) made a speech in Parliament with Dersim content, thus causing public unrest. Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay from the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AKP) said, “CHP is in the process of going back to the witlessness of the single party era and fascist tendencies.” There was an inconsistency in this business.

Expertise report prepared

With the decision of Ankara 7th Administrative Court, the ministry cancelled the process and lifted the “censure.” “Dersim 38” was now free. But the Culture Ministry did not want it to stay so.

Lawyer Fikret İlkiz received an email briefing the matter on behalf of the ministry from Ş. Abdurrahman Çelik, Ph.D. It said, “It is seen that the film provokes one segment of the population with hatred and animosity against another segment who has different social class, race, religion, sect and regional features and when it is screened. It is openly seen that it might violate public order.”

The case is at the Supreme Court of Appeals now. “Dersim 38,” which won international awards in festivals, cannot be screened or distributed in Turkey.

Demirel said this: “Continuity is essential in the state. To try to show the CHP of today as the perpetrator of the massacre that was experienced during the building of the nation process is criminalizing the incident. It is similar to trying the hit-man only in the Dink case. While debates on mother tongue and KCK [the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] arrests are continuing, while people are denigrated by being called Zarathustra, this kind of an apology does not meet our need of confrontation. The state is built on the program of Turkification and this program is still valid. There can be no apology without rejecting that.”

Can there?

*Pınar Öğünç is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Nov. 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.