Artfully supporting Turkish minorities

Two Danish artists have performed an "art protest" on the streets of the Turkish capital, Ankara, to highlight concerns over freedom of speech in Turkey and show support for Turkish minorities.

    Artists' stickers plastered on Ankara streets

    "After the recent arrests of Turkish journalists for "insulting Turkishness, we wanted to address the issue of freedom of speech in Turkey.

    "We want Turkey to be a member of the EU, but we are concerned about this issue," Jan Egesborg, one of the street artists involved told Aljazeera.net.

    Egesborg and his partner, Pia Bertelsen, who call themselves "Surrend", short for surrender plastered stickers around the city centre with pictures of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minster, and texts that read:"We know that you love Kurdish television; We know that you put the control of freedom of speech highest;we know that you know more about Kurdish television than 56 mayors."

    Artists highlight the irony  

    The artists told Aljazeera.net. that their aim was to promote a dialogue between the Danish and Turkish governments after 56 Turkish mayors were charged with up to 10 years' imprisonment

    for writing a letter to the Danish prime minister asking him not to close down the Kurdish satellite channel Roj TV, which today broadcasts in Kurdish from Denmark.

    "We do not support Roj TV, but are focused on freedom of speech, because we believe that Turkey would be a good partner for the EU," Egesborg said.

    "We want Turkey to be a member of the EU. It would be fantastic for both parties in terms of economic and cultural excahnge," he added.

    Freedom of speech

    Turkey has been criticised by the EU over its policies on freedom of speech, since getting the greenlight for accession talks in October 2005.

    Turkish writer charged under 301

    Article 301, on the denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the State, was introduced with the legislative reforms of June 1, 2005, and replaced Article 159 of the old penal code.

    Up to 60 journalists have been investigated under Article 301. Amnesty International has expressed extreme concern at the frequest use of it to prosecute human rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society who express their dissenting opinion. 

    Public reaction

    The reaction on the streets from both Turkish people and security forces was one of curiosity and calm. 

    "The reaction was not a negative one, quite the opposite. People stopped and read the stickers and seemed genuinely interested. Even the police looked on in wonder to what we were doing and did not react negatively," Egesborg said.

    Pia Bertelsen says the aim of Surrend is to take art to hotspots.

    Bertelsen and Egesborg and another artist, Claude Rohland, put up anti-war posters in Baghdad last year.

    In Zimbabwe, they placed advertisments in newspapers, "making fun of" Robert Mugabe, the country's president.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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