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  • Oct 25, 2019

Cultural Figures Call For Boycott Of Turkish Cultural Institutions In Wake Of Syria Invasion

EYAL WEIZMAN (left), HIWA K (center), and SIMON DENNY (right) are among 300 figures who are boycotting cultural events and institutions backed by the Turkish government. Portrait of Eyal Weizman courtesy Forensic Architecture; portrait of Hiwa K by Sarhang Hars, courtesy Kunsthalle Mannheim; portrait of Simon Denny by Jesse Hunniford, courtesy Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart.

petition calling for a boycott of Turkish cultural and academic institutions and events backed by the state has garnered close to 300 signatures from artists, musicians, writers, and scholars, including critic David Levi Strauss, media theorist Boris Groys, Forensic Architecture director Eyal Weizman, and artists Simon Denny and Hiwa K. 

The petition decries the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, launched on October 9, and asks cultural workers and organizations to “boycott events, activities, agreements or projects involving Turkish government or government-funded cultural institutions. International venues and festivals are asked to reject funding and any form of sponsorship from the Turkish government.” The boycott does not, the petition emphasizes, “preclude communication and collaboration with individual Turkish scholars or democratic institutions/journals.”

Additionally, the organizers of the boycott defend the so-called Rojava Revolution, an experiment in self-government rooted in egalitarianism and Kurdish autonomy in what is known to the Kurds as the Rojava region. The petition exhorts signatories to “actively promote the ideas embodied by Rojava” through awareness-raising activities, as well as to support “academic and public initiatives that target processes of neo-imperialism, settler colonialism, racism, militarism and sexism in various contexts.”

Operation Peace Spring officially aims to push the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—accused by the Turkish government of being allied with the internationally designated terror organization Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)—out of the region, which borders Turkey to the southeast. The invasion has been widely condemned by the international community for resulting in civilian casualties, mass displacement, and the political destabilization of the region, and has also stoked fears of ethnic cleansing of Kurdish populations. A ceasefire deal was reached on October 17 and renewed on October 23, though reports of continued clashes have surfaced.

Less than ten days before the petition began circulating, Ali Güreli, chair of Contemporary Istanbul, emailed a statement to the media and clients of the art fair defending Operation Peace Spring, and accusing international journalists for spreading “totally inaccurate” reports and “black propaganda” about the invasion. Güreli’s statement resulted in the resignations of the fair’s artistic director, Anissa Touati, and the selection committee.

Ophelia Lai is ArtAsiaPacific’s associate editor.

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