An outburst of anti-government protests began September 20 in Egypt. The government has instated a harsh anti-protest law, is leveling falsified charges to quash media outlets that confront the established national narrative, introducing a law that fines journalists for reporting “false news,” and prosecuting individuals who express different religious or political viewpoints with punishments of fines, harsh prison sentences, or even death sentences. Over 2,000 people have been imprisoned, many without any apparent connection to the protests, without charge and without legal counsel. Witnesses are reporting that all places of the Arab spring revolution in Cairo have been blocked and the police are stopping people in the street and asking for their mobile phones and then looking at what they share on facebook and their messages.
Among the reportedly detained people is the playwright Ezz Darwiesh from Alexandria. Darwiesh has been awarded at the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater 2007 and was invited to several festivals in the Arab World and Europe.
A Moscow court has released theater director Kirill Serebrennikov on bail after a year and a half spent under house arrest on criminal fraud charges, Russian news agencies reported this week. Bail terms restricted travel for Serebrennikov, former Seventh Studio general director Yury Itin and former Culture Ministry official Sofia Apfelbaum. A fourth defendant in the case, former Gogol Center director Alexei Malobrodsky, has been under similar travel restrictions since April 2018. The courts’s resent decision has overturned all the defendants’ travel restrictions.
Serebrennikov was detained in August 2017 on charges of embezzling 68 million rubles ($1 million) in government funds as part of a theater project, damages that later doubled to 133 million rubles. Supporters of the Gogol Center’s artistic director say the charges against him are politically motivated.
The director and artistic manager of the Hamburg theatre MUT!, Mahmut Canbay, was arrested on his arrival in Turkey for suspected terror. The Yeni Kapi Tiyatrosu in Izmir invited Canbay with a group of young actors from MUT! theatre for two workshops. Canbay had been interrogated for eight hours and received unlimited ban from entering Turkey on Thursday evening. He was denied a lawyer. All emails, contacts and chats on his smartphone were checked. Among other things, he was questioned about a satiric cartoon of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that an acquaintance had sent him by Whatsapp. He was asked why he had not deleted them. With the accusation of terror propaganda, he was finally put back on an airplane to Germany late in the evening of August 8th. The young actors were picked up by theatre members at the airport and could continue the travel to Izmir. They will return on August 15th.
MUT! was founded by Mahmut Canbay and has existed since 2005. It plays multicultural projects and receives public funding from the city of Hamburg.
Several Germans with a Turkish or Kurdish background have been refused entry into Turkey or were arrested. Seven German citizens are currently being detained in Turkey for political reasons. Meanwhile, the German Foreign Office has warned against publishing criticism of the Turkish government in social media.
On 24 July, the President of Albania, Ilir Meta, submitted the complete dossier on the subject of the National Theatre to the Constitutional Court. During his visit on July 25th the Secretary General of the OSCE, Thomas Greminger has stated he believes that “all parties” should wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court before proceeding with the issue of the National Theatre. Albania’s Constitutional Court has been defunct for over a year and has a backlog of tens of thousands of constitutional cases, many of which are by citizens against the government. On the same weekend, the first performance took place again on the stage of the National Theatre. At the beginning of the performance the audience shouted “Long live the theatre”, “Down with the dictatorship”, “Long live freedom”.
Alternative for Germany, known as AfD, has intensified its political activities against public cultural institutions, mainly the city theatres. In many city parliaments the AFD has used the instrument of Parliamentary Inquiries, to question the work of the theatres and the public funding . AFD fuels also prejudices and moods against migrants. The New York Times (July 19th) has a report.
Albanian authorities decided to demolish the National Theatre, one of the most prominent cultural centres in Tirana and an important social and public space in the city. Artists and citizens from the Alliance for the National Theatre have been protesting against its demolition for over a year and have created a human barricade in and around the building. As part of a police raid today, for the first time ,violence against the protesters was used. Read and share their manifesto and sign the petition at change.org.
Already in June 2018, the cultural heritage network Europa Nostra expressed its sincere concerns regarding the decision to demolish with the National Theatre a heritage site of great cultural and architectural importance in Europe.
See also the report from December 2018 about the the Alliance for the National Theatre in Tirana at nachtkritik (German)