Turkish opposition slams plan to privatize theaters amid demonstrations

Turkish opposition slams plan to privatize theaters amid demonstrations

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish opposition slams plan to privatize theaters amid demonstrations

Protesters stage a night-long demonstration against privatization plans in Istanbul. DHA photo

A representative of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has criticized the Prime Minister’s recent remark that he will consider privatizing all state-run theaters, in response to the controversy that has arisen over new regulations governing the Istanbul’s City Theaters.

“No state-run theaters exist in almost any developed country. I congratulate Mr. Kadir Topbaş, [the mayor of Istanbul], and I will bring that [suggestion] to the Cabinet,” Erdoğan said in an address to his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Youth Branches’ Congress on April 29.


Emine Ülker Tarhan. AA Photo.

The CHP’s Emine Ülker Tarhan responded in a written statement, saying that the recent protests by artists and actors are to protect and preserve art and artistic creation. “Now in order to make us the puppets of their conservatism, they [the ruling AKP government] say there will be no state theaters,” Tarhan said. The government is not hiding its intention to act as a moral guardian for society, she added.

Tension has arisen between artists and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), after Topbaş recently amended the regulations of the City Theaters, which are run by the Metropolitan Municipality, to increase the influence of civil servants in selecting the theaters’ repertoire and to better control the artistic content of the theater. Hundreds of actors and actresses have held rallies in Ankara and Istanbul to protest the move, and accuse the government of using its authority to censor the theater.

The protests continued on April 29, with theater actors gathering in front the Muhsin Ertuğrul Theater in Istanbul. They spent the night there, dancing, singing songs and delivering speeches in honor of the 33rd anniversary of the death of actor Muhsin Ertuğrul.

“I am very sad about the decision. I am a traditional theater actor. The prime minister’s decision is very wrong. States should protect and support theaters,” actor Cem Davran said, speaking to the Doğan news agency.

European Union Minister Egemen Bağış also commented on the subject. “The theaters have wanted to make their art in a democratic environment for many years, but when we say we will privatize the theaters, they are against it.”