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Documentary on Turkey’s purge victims again removed from film festival

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The organizing committee of a film festival in southern Turkey once again removed a documentary depicting the plight of victims of a post-coup purge in Turkey after a ministry withdrew its support for the event due to the reversal of the initial decision to pull the film from the lineup, local media reported on Thursday.

Last week, the Golden Orange Film Festival committee in Antalya decided to remove the documentary, titled “Kanun Hükmü” (With the Force of Law), which focuses on the hardships faced by the victims of a massive purge of state institutions by the Turkish government in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016, drawing strong criticism from victims and activists.

The authorities then reinstated the film after the producers and directors of 27 films announced their withdrawal from the festival in reaction to the decision to remove “Kanun Hükmü.”

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry on Thursday stated that it had withdrawn its support for the Golden Orange after the organizing committee reversed its decision to remove the documentary. The festival’s sponsors also pulled their support in coordination with the ministry.

According to Turkish media reports on Thursday, the committee again decided to cut the documentary from the festival in response to the ministry’s move.

The festival’s director, Dr. Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, said in a written statement that an investigation had been launched into him due to the documentary, underlining that they couldn’t see the necessary support on the issue from the film industry.

“At this point, we are being portrayed as the responsible and guilty party in this matter. We cannot accept being described as supporters of any terrorist organization. We are removing the documentary titled ‘Kanun Hükmü’ from the festival selection,” he added.

Tamer Karadağlı, who was appointed State Theaters director general at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism last month, spoke to the Aydınlık daily about the developments, saying he supports the decision of the ministry to withdraw its support for the festival.

Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy also made a statement. He said the ministry is always a supporter of culture and art but that they “strongly oppose the use of the power of art for terrorist propaganda and its use as a provocative element in any way.”

Directed by Nejla Demirci, the documentary focuses on the challenges faced by Yasemin, a doctor, and Engin, a teacher, who lost their civil service jobs under post-coup emergency decrees, known as KHKs, issued by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, describing it as a terrorist organization.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

The Golden Orange Film Festival is organized by the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, which is run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the Antalya Culture and Arts Foundation.

The documentary was already the subject of a ruling last year by the Constitutional Court, which found that the local authorities’ ban on filming violated freedom of expression and awarded Demirci 13,500 Turkish lira in compensation.

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