Those who do not shut up when told to

Those who do not shut up when told to

The firing of theater player Levent Üzümcü from Istanbul’s City Theater was in connection with his stance during the Gezi Park resistance and his speech at the Socialist International. 

In his speech in 2013, Üzümcü defined Turkey as “a country forced to take sides constantly at the street, at school, at work, in front of the computer and during sports events.” 

In the two years that passed, this polarization has become so sharp now that nobody can cohabitate with anybody else anymore. Nobody believes in it anymore. I guess this is the worst consequence. Everybody lost their rationalism; nobody is able to get along with anybody else. 

There was no limit in the absurdities when a restaurant was raided and an Uighur Turk was beaten, thinking he was Chinese, and the lynching attempt on a lieutenant of the Turkish army, thinking he was a PKK member.   

While all this nonsense was ongoing, it was quite a good feeling when the Irish tourist took on all 15 shopkeepers who attacked him. As a matter of fact, somebody was finally able to beat the “powerful.”

Üzümcü had criticized the pressure on the society in 2013 from the aspect of the intervention to life styles. I am guessing that if he made that speech today, they would not wait two years to fire him; he would be kicked out right away. 

Not only Üzümcü, but many others who expressed their ideas similarly, journalists, academics, doctors, archeologists and public employees lost their jobs. They were insulted, detained, arrested, made targets of and received death threats, which they are still receiving. 

Speaking, questioning, discussing and even making jokes do not go unpunished during these times. In this country nowadays people are not seen as individuals but only as a part of an institution, community or society. 

To be able to exist, you have to oppress you identity and ideas and have to act according to where you belong. When you go over these, then it is not a surprise that Üzümcü was expelled from the City Theater. 

In several countries in the world, artistic freedom is inhibited. But those countries where democracy is fighting for its life, artistic freedom is the least “tolerated” one. 

According to the Freemuse report, in the list of countries where artistic freedom is most restricted and artists are made to pay the price, Turkey comes third after China and Russia. 

At these times, artists who raise their voices when they are told to shut up, those who enter from other doors when they are kicked out of one door are needed the most.  

In Canada, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s rule, when scientists working for the government were tried to be silenced, NASA climate experts were denigrated and environmentalist activists were defined as “dangerous radicals,” a woman artist named Franke James challenged the government. 

The more the government wanted to silence her, the more James’ voice was heard. 

In a book containing only cartoons, she explained the sins of Canada related to fossil fuels and climate change with a simplicity and clarity easy enough for a child to understand. 

Thus, the world got to learn Canada’s sins. 

When you block freedom of expression, it finds another way out; it is the same with artistic freedoms. 

Levent Üzümcü and those like him will find other ways out.

Do not doubt this even for a second.