Municipalities clash over dissident performers at Antalya Theater Festival

Municipalities clash over dissident performers at Antalya Theater Festival

Municipalities clash over dissident performers at Antalya Theater Festival After the Antalya Municipality refused to provide a stage to the Antalya Theater Festival this year, its Muratpaşa District Municipality has offered to host the festival, which is allegedly under fire from the government over its hosting of actors critical of the Turkish government.

The festival was held in the municipality-run Antalya Culture Center last year, but this year the Antalya Municipality, which is held by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), did not permit the center to be used. 

After news of the block emerged, Antalya Muratpaşa Mayor Ümit Uysal, affiliated with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), stepped in to offer use of the theater at the Muratpaşa Municipal Cultural Center for the festival. 

Kaan Sebkektay, one of the festival’s organizers, said the Antalya Culture Center was not granted as a venue due to the presence of dissident actors. 

“Critical actors such as Levent Üzümcü, Genco Erkal and Rutkay Aziz will be participating the festival this year. Some local newspapers then started a campaign against them, writing ‘we do not want Gezicis,’” Sebkektay said, referring to supporters of the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013. 

“We believe the theater was not given for that reason,” Sebkektay added.

However, Antalya Mayor Menderes Türel rejected the claims that they had not allowed use of the center because of the presence of critical performers. 

“Claims about this issue are not true. There has simply been no agreement between the organizers of the festival and the municipality this year. How can we cancel an agreement that was not made in the first place?” Türel said on Dec. 6. 

He said they allocated the center for last year’s festival and they could have done so this year, if not for the Antalya Film Festival which has only just ended, meaning that there is not enough time to prepare the venue for another festival.

Antalya Theater Festival will start on Dec. 7  and continue until Dec. 15.