Turkey: Protests against proposed arts council

Turkish artists and arts organisations fear that a new draft bill prepared by the Erdoğan government will serve as a tool for the government to crack down on free expression of artistic work, creativity and cultural themes


The bill is seen as a tool to give the government the absolute power to shape the arts and culture scene in Turkey through the establishment of an 11-member Arts Council, TÜSAK, all of whom will be appointed by the Cabinet chaired by Erdoğan on the recommendation of the culture and tourism minister.

The board will decide on the development and government funding of opera, ballet, dance, theaters, symphony concerts, art exhibitions, children’s plays and artistic activities.

The bill was prepared without consulting the arts community in Turkey and prompted a huge outcry in the arts community when news about it was leaked.

“It will eliminate the relative autonomy the arts community has been enjoying for decades in Turkey,” wrote Today’s Zaman.

“It is against the law on intellectual and artistic works,” the Theater, Opera and Ballet Members Foundation stated in a comprehensive article about the proposed arts council. The organisation criticised each item of the bill, and later collected 46,463 signatures from Turkish citizens who are also critical of the council.

An official petition concerning the anxieties of the art community about the bill was also submitted to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on 4 October 2013.

Today’s Zaman wrote that many suspect the bill is aimed at bring state-funded artistic and cultural activities under tight government control in order to overhaul the decades-old institutions which currently manage art and cultural works in Turkey. .

» Today’s Zaman – 11 May 2014:
‘Artistic production might die out with the arts council’
The Theater, Opera and Ballet Members Foundation’s (TOBAV) new campaign “Yes to Art” has been gaining support throughout Turkey as they criticize a controversial bill on the Turkey Arts Council (TÜSAK) that, if passed, will close the main art institutions of the country.

» Cihan – 12 April 2014:
Erdoğan’s war against arts and culture in Turkey
“A draft bill prepared by the Erdoğan government without actually consulting the arts community in Turkey will bring state-funded artistic and cultural activities under tight government control.”

» Today’s Zaman – 26 March 2014:
Turkey’s theater circles voice pessimism on World Theater Day
Signed by nearly 50 parties, including theater companies, artist unions and civil society organizations, the statement expresses the general anxieties of Turkey’s art community concerning the most recent developments regarding art and art-related institutions. Erten criticized a bill on the Turkey Arts Council (TÜSAK) that, if passed, could close the Turkish State Theaters (DT) and the State Opera and Ballet (DOB).

» Today’s Zaman – 24 March 2014:
Artists protest Turkey Arts Council in southern cities
Artists and academics from the southern Turkish cities of Mersin and Antalya have demonstrated against a controversial bill on the Turkey Arts Council (TÜSAK) by staging ballet and dance performances, the Doğan news agency has reported.

» Cagdas Haber Gazetesi – 17 March 2014: (in Turkish language)
Tüsak “Carmina Burana” Yla Protesto Edildi
Sanatçı protestosu farklı oluyor. İzmir’de TÜSAK’ı protesto eden sanatçılar, eylem sırasında Carnina Buranayı oynadılar.

» Hurriyet Daily News – 4 March 2014:
Controversial arts draft law comes to table
Artists contend that the draft law will result in the closure of 55 state institutions including the State Theaters and turn artists into subcontracted workers.

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