Saturday, December 22, 2012

TURKEY: Letter From Theatre Critics

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, center, joins artists protesting a move by Istanbul's mayor to take over decision-making in the Istanbul theatres in April 2012. (AP Photo)
The following letter was forwarded to AICT-IATC Secretary General Michel Vaïs by Hasan Anamur of the Turkish section of the International Association of Theatre Critics:

The Executive Committee of the Turkish section of the IATC wishes to inform you of the critical situation facing the theatre and artistic communities in Turkey since the 2000 rise to power of a political party that is trying to create conditions aimed at controlling all kinds of theatrical creations, to close down all state theatres, as well as municipal theatres in order to establish what they refer to as “a conservative art” of which no one knows the real meaning. Oppression from this party on the life of theatre has become more and more stifling. We ask that the following press release be shared with all the sections of the IATC.
Best regards,
Hasan Anamur
Turkish Section, IATC

The Turkish Section of the IATC wishes to announce that Turkey is presently undergoing measures taken by the political party in power against artistic events in general, and theatrical activities in particular.

Just to give some examples, we can mention the situation of the Atatürk Cultural Center in Istanbul, which has venues for opera, ballet, concerts and theatre, as well as a gallery for exhibitions. It is closed since June 2008, first under the pretext that it was being restored, then demolished for a reconstruction. But nothing was done to date and the city of Istanbul, among the three cities elected to be a World Cultural Center in 2010 by UNESCO, was deprived of it for all that time. The restoration was recently questioned, and there are still no signs that it will begin.

As for the town council of Istanbul, without any notice, at the end of the 2011–12 theatre season, it imposed a new regulation to the Istanbul Municipal Theatre—which is 98 years old—and cancelled all the rights of the artistic director to transfer them to bureaucrats of the town hall who are incompetent in this field. This decision and its application have caused strong protests and large popular and artistic demonstrations in Istanbul and throughout Turkey.

Recently, the town hall of Beyoglu (Pera) in Istanbul, following the Istanbul town hall and with the same excuse of restoration, has closed down the Karaca (Karadja) Theatre, founded in 1955, just before the opening of the 2012–13 season, without even informing the dozen of companies which were sharing this hall.

Lately, the Ministry of National Education has forbidden the renting of theatre venues in schools to professional theatre companies.

This is the situation in Turkey. We can only add that political power is transient, while theatre is eternal.

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