Markus Rindt, the director of the Dresden Symphony, has claimed that Turkey has demanded the European Commission (EC) pull its 200,000 Euros funding from the ‘Aghet’ art project, in which his orchestra will perform a piece on 30 April 2016 marking the 101-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide, reported The Independent on 25 April 2016.
Turkey’s complaint is that it is offended by the use of the word “genocide” on the EC’s website as the country denies that it conducted genocide against ethnic Armenians in 1915 during the end of the Ottoman Empire. It remains illegal in the country to refer to the events as genocide.
The European Union (EU) seemingly has bowed to the pressure and has removed the pages from the website, but has not pulled the funding of the project, reported Breitbart on 26 April 2016.
“Due to concerns raised regarding the wording used in the project description, the Commission temporarily withdrew it,” an EC spokeswoman said. “A new project description will be republished in the coming days.”
Meanwhile Rindt called the demand “an attack on freedom of expression” and said the Turkish government “wanted no one to find out”.
Rindt’s ‘Aghet’ project began in November 2015 when he conceived of the idea to bring together Armenian, Turkish and German musicians to play a concert together to remember the events that happened 101 years ago and to act a symbol of reconciliation. Aghet, the Armenian word for “catastrophe”, has become synonymous with the genocide, and thus a controversial word.
This incident is a continuation of Turkey’s pressure on the EU and its member states to stifle freedom of expression. Earlier in April 2016 Turkey brought defamation charges on German comedian Jan Böhmermann for reading an “insulting” poem of notoriously thin-skinned Turkish president Erdoğan on his TV show. Turkey also demanded Swedish broadcaster TV4 pull a documentary on the Armenia genocide on “principles of objectivity”; the documentary still aired.
Photo from Aghet project site
» Deutsche Welle – 27 April 2016:
Germany’s cultural council tells Turkey to mind its own business
» Deutsche Welle – 26 April 2016:
Cultural censorship: Ankara raises objections to European arts and culture
» Breitbart – 26 April 2016:
Turkey threatens EU over Armenian genocide art project
» Russia Today – 26 April 2016:
Turkey + EU = Censorship? 5 times Erdogan tried to get Europe to silence his critics
» The Independent – 25 April 2016:
German orchestra accuses Turkey of trying to censor ‘Armenian genocide’ performance
» Artsfreedom.org – 20 April 2016:
Turkey: Baby donkeys, insults and presidents
» Artsfreedom.org – 18 April 2016:
Germany: Comedian faces potential prosecution for criticising Turkish president
» Freemuse.org – 22 February 2016:
Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015