Category Archives: update

Yulia Tsvetkova on Shortlist for 2020 Freedom of Expression Award

Yulia Tsvetkova, the 26-year-old Russian theater director, visual artist, and activist who has been under house arrest in (far Eastern) Komsomolsk-on-Amur since November 22, 2019 on charges related to her work with the children’s theater “Merak” and her visual artwork published on social media. Yulia is the target of homophobic harassment and persecution for her work as a defender of the rights of women and LGBT people( see our post from December 12, 2019).
She is charged with “producing and trafficking pornographic materials” for administering a group on the Russian social media site Vkontakte called “Vagina Monologues,” which published artistic and educational images of the female body. If convicted, Yulia could be sentenced to up to 6 years in prison.
Yulia was the director of the activist children’s theater “Merak” in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The group produced 9 performances, including a play that examined gender stereotypes, called “Pink and Blue.” In March 2019 Yulia and her theater were targeted by self-described “Anti-LGBT Activist” Timur Bulatov (Los Angeles Times), who has continued to harass her and make false claims against her to the Russian police. Because of this persecution and harassment, Yulia was forced to close the Merak theater.
In December 2019 Yulia was found guilty of “LGBT Propaganda,” an administrative offense for “promoting non-traditional sexual relations among minors” and fined 50,000 rubles (780 US dollars) for administering two LGBTI social media groups. Both groups were labeled “18+” in accordance with the requirements of Russian law. In January 2020 a new case was brought against her for a drawing she published on social media with the words “Family is where there is love. Support LGBT + families .”
Yulia is extremely geographically isolated in the Russian Far East. She is supported by her mother and a handful of people in her town, but otherwise she fears violence and harassment. She is allowed to venture 500 meters from home for one hour each day. She has been denied vital medical treatment.

The Human Rights Center “Memorial” has declared Yulia a political prisoner and Amnesty International recently updated their reports about Yulia and issued an Urgent Appeal for Action in her case. Index on Censorship nominated Yulia now for the arts section of the Freedom of Expression Award 2020. The 20th Freedom of Expression Awards will be held on 30 April 2020 in London.

The charges against Yulia must be dropped and she must be released from detention immediately.

Sources: Index on censorship,  post on Freemuse (March 2019),  HR center Memorial (Russian),  Amnesty International (Russian)
Artistic intervention: Solidarity Walk in Berlin,  February 2020 (Vimeo)
Facebook site Free Tsvet

Fresh Arrest Warrant for Osman Kavala after Beeing Acquitted

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 warrant for Osman Kavala for his alleged ties to a failed 2016 coup.

Sources: Middle East Eye , T24, Deutsche Welle

The State of Artistic Freedom in Europe

 At the European Parliament in Brussels, on January 21st, Freemuse in collaboration with Culture Action Europe is launching its first European report on the state of artistic freedom. The report first of its kind, outlines the emerging trends found to be particularly challenging in Europe in relation to freedom of artistic expression. Freemuse has documented 380 cases of violations to the right of freedom of artistic expression in Europe from January 2018 until October 2019. At the launch, concrete actions and recommendations will be proposed to the European Parliament ensuring that the right to artistic expression is not only better protected but also crucially better promoted across the continent.

Download the report (64 pages, pdf) from Freemuse.org 

Serebrennikov released

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.

Sources: themoscowtimes.com, Arsis-Artists.com

Update: National Theatre Tirana

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”.

Sources: exit/Explaining Albania 25-07-2019, and 30-07-2019, FAZ 26-07-2019, TAZ 31-07-2019

Free Osman Kavala!

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.

Over 10,000 people have now signed a petition.

Sources:  Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin,  Solidarity platform for Osman Kavala