Artistic Freedom of Expression in Turkey: State of Emergency

This report has been written with the aim of investigating and documenting how the State of Emergency (SOE) measures introduced after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey have affected the country’s culture and art worlds.

Following the July 15 coup attempt, a three-month SOE was announced on July 21, 2016 on the basis of clauses of the constitution and the State of Emergency Law “in order to eliminate all the components and fronts of the terror organization behind the coup attempt.”[1] The Council of Ministers extended the SOE four more times, on October 19, 2016; January 3, 2017; April 19, 2017; and July 17, 2017. At the time of writing, the SEO remains in force.

As well as focusing on the events that have taken place during the SOE period, this report chooses to read them as a continuation of the repressive policies that had already been increasing in the lead up to the coup attempt. It is suggested here that these repressive policies will not end with the lifting of the SOE, and therefore that actions aimed at protecting and improving human rights must be planned for the long term.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which had been the majority party in power since 2002, lost this advantageous situation in the June 7, 2015 elections when the People’s Democratic Party (HDP)—a democratic bloc established under the leadership of a pro-Kurdish party, but also composed of feminist, LGBTI, and other groups pushing for political change in Turkey—overcame the electoral threshold for the first time to become the third party in parliament behind the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The AKP decided to call a second election for November 1, 2015, giving the excuse that they were unable to form a coalition. In the period between the two elections, the peace talks between the state forces in Turkey and The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) initiated in 2013 came to a de facto end and clashes began anew. State security forces carried out operations against the PKK in Kurdish-majority cities, openly inflicted violence on civilians, demolished large areas of towns and cities, and displaced many of their remaining citizens.

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