Protesters vow to prevent Akün Theater destruction

Protesters vow to prevent Akün Theater destruction

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Protesters vow to prevent Akün Theater destruction

Protesters led by the ‘Ben Ankara-Başkent Dayanışması’ initiative gather outside the famous Akün Theater against the destruction of the landmark hall. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Dozens of residents in Ankara, led by the “Ben Ankara – Başkent Dayanışması” initiative, a collection of civil society organizations based in Ankara, gathered in front of Akün Theater on April 17, in order to protest the auction sale of both the Akün and Şinasi theaters, two landmark theater halls in the Turkish capital.

A building next to Akün was set to host the third round of a tender, as on previous occasions the proposals were either below the upset price, set by the seller to entertain bids, or there were not enough proposals to proceed with the tender. 

The tender was cancelled on this occasion as no company applied to take part and therefore no buyers were found, according to Ergüner Yazgın, the deputy general manager of Emek İnşaat which is the current owner. 

“We address the Minister of Culture and Tourism, who repeated his statement on Emek Theater a couple of days ago and left the art world baffled,” said Erdinç Doğan, the chair of the Artists of National Theatres Association, reading out a press statement on behalf of “Ben Ankara,” which literally means “I am Ankara.” 

Criticism of minister 

Doğan was apparently referring to Culture Minister Ömer Çelik’s remarks delivered on April 1 when he stated that, “Emek Theatre is not being demolished, it’s being moved up.”

Later, on April, 9, Çelik then directly criticized protests against the changes. “Some groups are trying to put the ministry and artists against each other. I will never credit those who choose to simply shout slogans, which is an old Turkish habit,” he said.

Pledging not to allow these historic buildings to be used for profit or be turned into malls or residences, the protesters in Ankara stated: “If this sale is not stopped or if the ministry is not the one to buy these buildings, then the future of culture will be darkness.” 

Doğan also underlined that Paris had 120 theaters, Berlin and London had more than 60, and Athens had 110, while there was currently a total of only 12 theaters in Ankara. “In every developed country, theaters are regarded as ‘temples of art.’ Those who side with the destruction of a temple cannot find an honorable place in the pages of history,” he said. 

The crowd carried banners saying “Akün and Şinasi belong to the people, they cannot be sold” and “There can be no tender of a public betrayal.” 

Thousands, including popular faces from Turkish cinema and television, protested the demolition of the Emek Theater on a number of occasions during the Istanbul Film Festival, most recently on April 14.