On 23 August 2021, thirteen NGOs issued a joint statement about the Ministry of Justice’s letter to the Constitutional Court (AYM). The ministry’s letter alleged that the charges of “inciting the people into hatred and animosity” brought against two Boğaziçi University students over an artwork depicting Kaaba were just, reported Bianet.
Two students were released on 17 March 2021 after being under arrest since 30 January 2021 on charges of “degrading or provoking the public to hatred and animosity” and “resisting to prevent the fulfilment of duty” according to Articles 216 and 265 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Upon the release, one of the students applied to the Constitutional Court, saying that his right to personal freedom and liberty was violated. The head of the Ministry of Justice Department of Human Rights, Dr Hacı Ali Açıkgül, responded to the Constitutional Court, citing the indictment of the case, and alleging that the arrests of the students were consistent with the law.
The charges resulted from exhibiting the artwork depicting Kaaba, a sacred site in Islam, on 22 January 2021 with a Shahmaran figure and four LGBTI+ flags on its corners. This was a part of protests against the appointed rector, which started on January 2021.
Freemuse’s State of Artistic Freedom 2021 highlights that government authorities continued to be a major obstacle for the exercise of artistic freedoms in Turkey, being responsible for 90 percent of all cases of violations Freemuse documented in 2020.