Can peace come to a country where artists are considered terrorists?
At the very top, we can hear cries of peace and conciliation, but what happens in daily life?
Just a couple of days ago, a screening of the film “İki Tutam Saç – Dersim” was stopped by the Office of the Dean of Communications Department of Istanbul University. The film depicted the story of two girls who were taken from their families during the military operation during the 1938 Dersim Massacre, adopted by military families and “Turkified.”
Again, a couple weeks ago we learned that a workshop belonging to İsmail Doğan, a sculptor from Tunceli, was raided and a sculpture of a woman was “seized.” According to the prosecutor, it was a sculpture of a PKK member because it had “Mekap-style” shoes. The sculptor is now being tried on grounds that he is a “member of an armed organization.”
It’s a comedy.
Even if the state gives the impression and image that it is sincere in the reconciliation process, it is apparent that institutions have not been able to break their old habits.
Here are a few examples from the past four years…
There was a court case opened against 13 people for singing and entertaining the audience at Batman Bahar Cultural Center during Nevruz festivities. They were banned from performing for five years, taking the stage, playing the tambourine and singing.
The banderole for a documentary called “Dersim 38” was not issued. Producers appealed and won the case. The Culture Ministry challenged the court decision, and the film’s release was blocked.
When the documentary “Berivan” was to be shown, the Batman governor banned it on grounds that it featured factors that would “disrupt the unity and togetherness of the Turkish nation and make propaganda for the PKK.”
In a rally of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), medical students who chanted Kurdish songs were taken to court with demands for five years in jail. In Manisa, artists who sang Kurdish songs during Nevruz festivities were given 10-month sentences.
A film set in Batman’s Sason district was raided by police and all staff were detained. The allegation was that one person caused a reaction because he spoke Turkish and not Kurdish. They rejected the claim and said the police were out to block the filming activity.
Again in Sason, when actor Kemal Ulusoy answered an Arabic salute in Kurdish, he was detained for “inducing animosity among people.”
At the Mustafa Necati Cultural Center of the Turkish Parliament, oil paintings of the three PKK women murdered in Paris were removed by parliamentary authorities.
Now, because of a sculpture that wears “mekap” on her feet, a sculptor is accused of being a terrorist. The artist is trying to explain that this is not a woman’s sculpture from the PKK.
What if it was?
Art does not have boundaries of concern, fear, censorship and sensitivity. It wouldn’t be art if it did. The artist always and always steps on red lines.
But be sure of this: There are no terrorists among artists.
An artist makes an issue of the issues that touch him/her; he or she draws, dresses the stone, writes music and goes on stage to express himself or herself. The artist wants freedom and thrives on the ideal of peace.
While this is so, the artistic and cultural productions born out of the Kurdish struggle are considered as “organizational propaganda” by governors, prosecutors and members of the police.
Thus, the acts of artists are excluded from freedom of expression.
Can peace come to a place where sculptures and folk songs are considered criminal evidence and artists are terrorists? Really, can it?