Turkey’s ‘culture war’: Anger grows as string of occasions cancelled

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Istanbul, Turkey – It is the peak of spring in Turkey, and with that comes a flurry of live shows and out of doors festivals to enhance the nice climate.

But in latest weeks, a string of occasions have been cancelled by cities and districts run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), main critics and analysts to accuse the federal government of trying to wage a “culture war” within the run-up to subsequent yr’s common elections.

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The first extensively publicised cancellation occurred on May 9 when the governor of the Central Anatolian province of Eskisehir banned all out of doors occasions for 15 days on the grounds that “terrorist groups were preparing demonstrations”. Eskisehir is called a lively faculty city with brimming nightlife and whereas town municipality is run by the principle opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the provincial governor, like all others in Turkey, was appointed by the president.

The ban successfully cancelled a big competition which was scheduled to happen in Eskisehir between May 12-15, that includes a number of the nation’s hottest singers.

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Meanwhile, iconic Kurdish singer Aynur Dogan’s live performance on May 20 within the province of Kocaeli was cancelled on the idea that the occasion was “not appropriate,” whereas people musician Niyazi Koyuncu’s live performance within the Istanbul district of Pendik scheduled for May 25 was banned on the grounds that Koyuncu – who is thought for being against the federal government – didn’t share the “value judgements and views” of the municipality.

Despite having fun with a surge in reputation, singer Melek Mosso’s June three live performance at a competition within the western metropolis of Isparta was axed by the municipality after two youth associations launched a press release alleging that Mosso “encourages immorality,” urging that her present be shut down. Another Kurdish singer, Mem Ararat, had his live performance in Bursa cancelled by the provincial governorate for causes of “public safety”.

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“Cancelling concerts by Kurdish singers plays into the recent surge in nationalist, anti-Kurd and xenophobic bent of a lot of the AKP’s rhetoric and policy – an outgrowth of their partnership with the [far-right] MHP – but the general idea of taking the fight to pop music is striking in a country that generally has viewed pop music as an apolitical venue,” James Ryan, Associate Director at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, informed Al Jazeera.

“There are a lot of AKP voters who watch Eurovision, listen to [doyenne singer] Sezen Aksu, watch [the popular contest show] O Ses Turkiye, and I’m sure there were at least some AKP-aligned voters who held tickets to the concerts by Dogan, Ararat, Koyuncu and Mosso,” Ryan added.

The Directorate of Communications didn’t reply to a request for remark by Al Jazeera.

But Hilal Kaplan, journalist and columnist for the pro-government Sabah newspaper, stated the 2 organisations that urged for the cancellation of Mosso’s live performance in Isparta are, in truth, linked to the Felicity (Saadet) Party, which is among the many six opposition events belonging to a coalition alongside the principle opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“The Saadet Party positions itself in a more religious and more reflexive place than the AK Party. Moreover, after Melek Mosso’s concert was cancelled in Isparta, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism arranged a stage for Melek Mosso to give a concert in Istanbul. Thus by organising a concert for her in Istanbul, the government has created a much larger sphere of influence than in a small Anatolian city,” she informed Al Jazeera.

“So it would be misleading to ignore these facts and claim that the events were cancelled by the government.”

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Meanwhile, spring festivals happen at quite a few universities all through the nation however this yr stay music performances on the gatherings at Middle East Technical University within the capital of Ankara and Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul have been cancelled, formally as a result of three Turkish troopers have been killed in a latest navy operation concentrating on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Both universities are led by rectors who’ve been appointed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It’s hard to know the exact motivation behind [all] these cancellations, which is even more disturbing, but I think it’s related to the election climate we are about to enter,” stated James Hakan Dedeoglu, a writer of the unbiased music journal Bant and lengthy an energetic determine within the Istanbul music scene reserving and selling live shows.

“It seems to me it is a way for the forces in the government to show they can do whatever they want. Especially when it comes to answering the needs and requests of the conservative population. And they need to consolidate their voters, especially in this current disastrous economic downturn,” he informed Al Jazeera.

Other analysts agree that the cancellations possible stem from a pre-election technique on the a part of President Erdogan, who has slipped within the polls as a result of Turkey’s ailing economic system, with common and presidential elections set for June 2023.

“With the growth being down and inflation nearing triple digits – the highest since Erdogan came to power – and other economic indicators not looking very good, I think Erdogan is going to double down on the culture wars aspect of his brand,” Soner Cagaptay, Senior Fellow on the Washington Institute, informed Al Jazeera.

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The authorities has firmly defended its financial document and its controversial rate of interest insurance policies, arguing that decrease charges will decrease inflation and can increase financial development, exports and jobs – and Erdogan stated in a press release on June 6 that Turkey doesn’t technically have an issue with inflation, however with a excessive value of living.

And some argue that the cancellations usually are not linked to a top-down coverage imposed by the ruling occasion.

“The decisions to cancel the concerts and festivals are definitely not the decisions of the government, they are personal decisions made by provincial or district administrators, mayors, governors and district governors,” Tulay Demir, journalist and columnist for Daily Sabah, informed Al Jazeera.

“It is definitely not government policy, it is being portrayed by the opposition as if it were government policy.”

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But for music writer and promoter Dedeoglu, the wave of cancellations is deeply worrying.

“[It’s] a horrific and systematic thing the government is doing. And even if this is a temporary and stupid political act, the harm it does to society will last a long time.”

Ironically, the live performance bans and ensuing outrage have in all probability generated a little bit of the Streisand impact, wherein an try to suppress one thing solely brings extra consideration to it. Melek Mosso continues to carry out for big crowds throughout the nation, whereas Aynur Dogan performed on May 28 to a packed home at Istanbul’s pre-eminent out of doors venue, the Cemil Topuzlu Open Air Theatre, singing Kurdish songs to hundreds of followers.

“It was a dream, my heart soared from excitement and I was thunderstruck,” wrote Dogan in a heartfelt tweet that includes pictures of her Istanbul efficiency, a sign that music will be tough to silence when there’s a devoted viewers for it.

“Every beautiful word that could be uttered lost its meaning at that moment. Your eyes and faces were more beautiful than a thousand roses and you became thousands of hearts.”

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