‘Don’t be afraid of the arts,’ 57 bar associations tell Turkish gov’t amid bans

Fifty-seven bar associations across Turkey have released a joint statement calling on the Turkish government to stop imposing bans on arts and culture events in the country, which have led to outrage in the society.

More than a dozen events, including concerts and university music festivals, have been canceled by local administrations on various pretexts since mid-May in moves seen by many as attempts by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to interfere in people’s lifestyles and to try to force its Islamic values on the nation.

The recent bans on concerts across Turkey have drawn criticism from musicians, actors, bar associations and human rights activists.

In a joint statement released at the weekend, 57 bar associations called on the government not to be afraid of the arts but to let them be freely performed.

“There is a direct relationship between freedom and the arts. We do not accept these old-fashioned restrictions and bans [on arts and culture] that have become systematic. We strongly condemn artists being prevented from performing in this country,” said the bar associations in their statement.

They accused the government of targeting artistic freedom through the bans, which they said have no place in a democracy, adding that the pretexts presented by the decision makers behind the bans show that they’re blatantly discriminatory, based on the ethnicity, lifestyle or gender of the artists involved.

“Silencing arts and artists is equivalent to stifling the society,” said the bar associations in their statement.

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