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.
Osman Kavala is in solitary confinement without charge in Istanbul for more than one year (see our post from November 21, 2017).
For over 30 years, he has been active in fostering culture and education in Turkey. As a member of numerous boards and president of the cultural institution »Anadolu Kültür«, which he founded 16 years ago, he’s constructed bridges in civil society from Turkey to Europe and neighbouring countries. The Turkish public prosecutor’s office has rejected four requests for his release. Like many other critical intellectuals in Turkey, he’s been subjected to untenable accusations: among other things, he’s been accused of participating in planning the attempted coup in July 2016. The European Court of Human Rights recently pre-accepted Osman Kavala’s application on the basis of Article 41 of its internal regulations.
Media reported that Iranian authorities have arrested two artists over a production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream after a promotional video posted on social media showed female actors dancing with male performers.
Prominent director, Maryam Kazemi, and the manager of the Teheran City Theatre, Saeed Assadi, were detained on September 9th. The play had already been showing for seven nights and only had one night left to run.
The “House of Theatre” in Teheran declaired its ofdficial protest against the detention after an extraordinary general meeting of its members on September 10. Both persons have been released after one night. Culture Minister Abbas Salehi later intervened to secure their release, according to state news agency IRNA, sparing them the bail of three billion rial (roughly $23,000 at the current unofficial rate) each, which had initially been demanded.