Today a Turkish court acquitted Osman Kavala and other defendants – amongst them the theatre artists Ayşe Pınar Alabora and Memet Ali Alaborafollowing – following a controversial trial over the anti-government “Gezi Park” protests of 2013. Kavala and two other defendants had been facing life sentences without parole. Kavala, founder of Anadolu Kultur, was arrested in Istanbul on 18 October 2017 (see ACAR posts Nov. 21, 2017 and Nov 2, 2018), followed by a wave of solidarity from artists and human rights activists. In December, the European Court of Human Rights called for his immediate release, saying there was a lack of reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence.
Only few hours later Istanbul prosecutors have issued a new arrest warrantfor Osman Kavala for his alleged ties to a failed 2016 coup.
Our colleague, the director, festival director and president of the Algerian Centre of the International Theatre Institute, Mr. Okbaoui Cheikh , was refused a visa by the Austrian Embassy in Algeria in December. The reason given to him and his 9 colleagues – Bezia Cheddad, scenographer,; Smaani Arazki, actor; Fellag Malek, actor; Kerdous Jedjiga, actress; Boutchiche Hamadache, actor; Kessir Sofiane, actor; Slimani, Samia, actress; Belayel Rayel, actor; and Sahnoune Kamel, actor – who had been invited to a conference of the International University Global Theater Experience (IUGTE) at Schloss Laubegg/Ragnitz, was that they did not have the means of subsistence and the intended return. They received the refusal of visas one day before the intended journey and had already transferred 50% of the conference fees as intended.
Okbaoui Cheikh has been representing the Algerian ITI centre at numerous international meetings of the ITI for many years and successfully directs a renowned theatre group as well as an international festival.
In a letter to the Austrian embassy ACAR pointed out: “It should be known that artists in non-European countries often work under comparatively precarious conditions, sometimes earning their living with several jobs, as many artistic professions are not officially recognized. Unfortunately, especially younger artists are often affected by restrictions on mobility, as they often have neither a secure income nor have started their own families.
Mr. Okbaoui Cheikh has been issued over 15 visas in recent years and his reliability in terms of compliance with travel conditions should be beyond any doubt.
We would urge you to review and revise the visa decision urgently.”
Authorities in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Far East Russia, have charged Yulia Tsvetkova (26) with distributing “gay propaganda” to minors. The theatre artists and director of the children and youth theatre “Merak” is a feminist and LGBT activist. She was running a social media page called “Vagina Monologues” (related to the play by US author Eve Ensler), which encourages people to share artistic depictions of vaginas in order to “remove the taboo” around menstruation and the anatomy of the vagina. In March she organized a children and youth theatre festival “Blue and Pink”, focusing on gender stereotypes. The festival was banned by the city authorities and Yulia Tsvetkova was interrogated for four hours.
Russia banned by law “propaganda of homosexuality toward minors” in 2013. Tsvetkova’s trial is set for Dec. 9. If she found guilty she could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on change.org expressing support for Tsvetkova.
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.