Turkey: New optimism for Kurdish culture though pending cases remain unresolved

A new report from the organisation Siyah Bant, ‘Freedom of Expression in the Arts and Censorship in Kurdish Region Diyarbakir, Batman’, monitors violations on artistic freedom and concludes that despite the Turkish government’s proclaimed reform efforts much remains to be seen.

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In November 2013, exiled kurdish musician Şivan Perwer was invited to return to Turkey and perform in Kurdish – the language which was forbidden for several decades in the country. Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Diyarbakir in November 2013 was supposed to have illustrated the reform, with Şivan Perwer and İbrahim Tatlıses invited to perform.

But according to the report ‘Freedom of Expression in the Arts and Censorship’, the question still remains what will happen to the convictions and pending cases of the many Kurdish artists who have been indicted over the past decade.

“This unevenness remains as the recent reforms thus far formalize, if only partially, what has been a hard-fought for practice in the Kurdish regions,” the report concludes.

As censorship of the arts in Turkey has been rarely reported in depth Siyah Bant looked into the different mechanisms with which freedom of the arts is undermined. The report finds censorship in the arts violates both the guaranteed freedom of expression and the arts in the Turkish constitution as well as the international human rights agreements signed by Turkey where freedom of expressions is defined as an indispensable pillar of democracy.

The report writers conclude that stipulations with regard to ‘national security,’ Turkey’s anti-terror legislation as well as provisions concerning the public order are frequently employed to legitimize censorship and limitations of the freedom in the arts. These interventions are – for the most part – arbitrary and employed for political and ideological reasons, and often for seemingly contradictory ends.

In another report entitled ‘Developments in Cultural Policy and Their Effects on Artistic Freedom of Expression in the Arts, Ankara’, Siyah Bant looked at cultural policies in Turkey and how they affect artistic freedom.


» Read / download the full report from Siyah Bant: www.siyahbant.org (PDF)

» See video testimony about censorship in Turkey: www.freemuse.org


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