“An injustice done to Anadolu Kültür would be an injustice to the culture of our Anatolia”

A lawsuit for annulment has been openned for Anadolu Kültür, of which human rights activist Osman Kavala is the founder and chairman of the board of directors, who has been held in prison despite the ECHR’s release decision. We talked to names that produced or got inspired in Anadolu Kültür, pointing out that for the first time in the history of the Republic, a lawsuit has been filed against a company on the grounds that “it carries out its activities similar to associations and foundations without profit”

Anadolu Kültür, founded by detained businessman and human rights activist Osman Kavala, was sued for closure by the Ministry of Commerce on the grounds that it “did not operate like a company.” Anadolu Kültür stating that the case was a first in the history of the Republic of Turkey and was “invented”; also expressed that in the investigations carried out against them within the scope of the “Gezi Incidents Investigation”, there was no finding that a crime had been committed in terms of Criminal Laws. We directed questions to Ertuğrul Günay, Emin Alper, Hüseyin Karabey, Ümit Kıvanç, Aykut Sezgi Mengi, Necati Sönmez, Enis Köstepen, Hale Tenger, Sena Başöz, Banu Cennetoğlu and Kültigin Kağan Akbulut. We discussed what would be the result of the absence of an institution that has initiated many cultural projects, especially on contemporary art and cinema, What would the lack of Anadolu Kültür subtract from our lives, if not, what would we be deprived of in the name of art and pluralism.


Ertuğrul Günay, who served as the Minister of Culture and Tourism between 2007 and 2012, first draws attention to the name of the institution, and it is a company established with the aim and principle of “- as the name implies- to protect the rich historical and cultural assets of Anatolia and to spend for this purpose if income is obtained from the activities. Being found as Inc. Co. is for continuing its activities without being bound by the limitations of associations and foundations. Its work and banks accounts are open, transparent and indisputable.”

Stating that “Being non-profit  is a decision of principle taken with the will of the partners”, Günay adds “Therefore, no request for closure can be made. Anadolu Kültür has provided important services in the cultural field with its activities, publications, exhibitions, symposiums and field studies since its establishment. He adds that the closure of an institution that carries out such important and self-sacrificing works would be a disgrace and a great blow to the culture.

Repeating that Osman Kavala is an old and very valuable friend of his, Ertuğrul Günay said, “Due to the importance he attaches to pluralism, equality and undifferentiated Anatolian culture, we had a harmonious work and cooperation during my term as Minister of Culture and Tourism. I am well acquainted with his efforts to raise funds for Turkey’s historical assets from the World Monuments Fund. We have discussed many times what we can do about Divrigi and Ani. We have cooperated in many scientific studies on these issues. I know that even from the prison, he is following these issues with interest. For example; I was able to see a very nice exhibition on Ani through the news he sent from the prison. I remember that with gratitude and love.” he said.


Former Minister Günay also called on the Ministry of Commerce officials as follows: “As an experienced citizen who is interested in these issues, has brought thousands of historical artifacts to the country and opened dozens of new museums and cultural centers, I would like to call on them to be more attentive. Issues related to culture should not be subject to political prejudice and political instructions and should not be squandered away. An injustice done to Anadolu Kültür would be an injustice to the culture of our Anatolia; please give up this unfair attempt.”


Director Emin Alper draws attention to the fact that Anadolu Kültür is not trying to make profit and says: “For example, it did not stand in line to plunder the city’s rent areas, it did not owe​ ​obedience to the political power and pursue lucrative tenders behind closed doors. Anadolu Kültür supported artists who combine artistic and cultural production with humanitarian purposes in this country and developed dozens of projects for this purpose. Anadolu Kültür sometimes stood by Syrian immigrants against racist prejudices and produced projects that shed light on their experiences; it sometimes supported works that develop sensitivities that will overcome the hatred and marginalization created by this country’s ethnic fault lines. Anadolu Kültür sometimes opened a way for documentary filmmakers with the funds it created; sometimes mobilized to bring art and culture to minorities and disadvantaged groups. This list could go on for lines or even pages. Anadolu Kültür wanted to uproot the seeds of separation and hatred that the government has scratched and provoked, and to make the lives of the disadvantaged a little bit better. In short, Anadolu Kültür did the opposite of whatever the evil and barbarism connoted in the political power evoke. That’s why it has been the target.”


When asked what it means to protect Anadolu Kültür, Alper answers as follows: “First of all, it means defending the non-governmental organizations in which dozens of people are actively working to heal the wounds of this country, without any expectation of profit or wealth. Protecting this line of defense means protecting hope, peace and humanity in this country for people who defend fraternity and peace projects that the state did not carry out or even feel uncomfortable when they are being carried out. It means protecting rights defender associations, and all organizations that try to raise awareness about democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Reminding that Anadolu Kültür and Osman Kavala have been placed at the center of unimaginable hatred for years and subjected to systematic oppression and torture by the most authoritative figures of the state, Alper emphasizes, “In order to defend the universal values of humanity against this boundless hatred, we stand by Anadolu Kültür and Osman Kavala, who has been deprived of his freedom unlawfully for years”


Drawing attention to the fact that Anadolu Kültür has trained many artists, director Hüseyin Karabey said, “In times of intense war, deprivation and pain, it gave young people the opportunity to change their lives, albeit a little, through art, especially in the Kurdish region. Young people first became the witness and then the subject of the artistic life they saw from far. Those who grew up and produced art believed only in peace. They prepared themselves and us for an honorable peace with the works of art they produced. Investing in culture is a valuable investment that cannot be compared with any other financial balance sheet.”

Emphasizing the importance of Anadolu Kültür with the words, “By giving priority to cultures and cultural activities that are generally ignored by the official ideology of this country, it makes great efforts so that we can live more peacefully and culturally rich in the future,” Karabey added: The people living in this country will be able to face with and make peace with their past and establish a life together not only physically but also culturally. That’s why only one Anadolu Kültür is not enough, we are a society that is hungry for dozens like it. That’s why neither I can consider the abscence of it nor I can accept it being alone.”


Addressing Anadolu Kültür, saying, “I wholeheartedly support its honorable and non-violent resistance,” Karabey says, “Official statuses do not always represent the legitimate one. Therefore, even if it is officially closed, this decision will never be legitimate in the public eye. Anadolu Kültür currently exists as both an official and a legitimate institution. It should aim to maintain its existence under any circumstances.”

Filmmaker and screenwriter Enis Köstepen left us with this question; “He has done so much… How many institutions can we count that work to support cultural, artistic and intellectual productions in Turkey with a pluralist approach and try to create another space against the exclusionary discourses that try to dominate the public sphere?” .


Saying, “I can recommend people who have heard of Anadolu Kültür by name but have not followed its work closely, to go to webpage www.anadolukultur.org and examine the activities of the institution,”  Köstepen reminds us of many valuable activities of the institution by stating “New Film Fund, exhibitions at DEPO, Diyarbakir Art Center, Gomidas 150 Years Old Concert, Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform, BAK, Justice Atlas… These are the ones that come to my mind at once. With all these initiatives and structures, Anadolu Kültür supports cultural, artistic and intellectual production in Turkey. It also inspires and sets an example for other productions.”.

Documentary filmmaker and writer Ümit Kıvanç emphasized; “It showed that the cultural richness in Anatolia is not just the usual monstrosity squared off and stuffed in a box, but as big, wide, deep and alive as mountains, plains and rivers. He has helped culture and art to sprout from places where it is kept pushed and shoved and hidden, and has helped those who do not have the opportunity to find the opportunity to create.”


Kıvanç says Anadolu Kültür leads presenting the cultural richness of Anatolia as a universal spectrum and adds the following: “If not, we will not be informed about many things we will be missing a lot. We do not hear the voices of those who make noise from distant places. I wish everyone could understand what Anadolu Kültür and Osman (Kavala) intended by bringing it into being. I would like to invite people to make an effort to understand. Especially those who are hesitant to protest and oppose the persecution of Osman and now the ruse aiming to destroy Anadolu Kültür.”

Actor Aykut Sezgi Mengi, who especially draws attention to the contribution of Anadolu Kültür to cinema; “Anadolu Kültür has become the bridge of accessibility, which is the most basic need of art production, in this geography with the projects it has developed since 2002 and the funds it has provided. Through the ‘New Film Fund’ they developed for cinema; it became the voice of the silent minority by adopting concepts such as human rights, equality and freedom. If we can talk about a new Turkish Cinema, the support of Anadolu Kültür has a great role in this,” he says.


According to Mengi, who says “Memory is an artist’s guide, its production starts from there”. “Anadolu Kültür is one of the most important institutions, a value that keeps the ignored memory of this geography alive in the production of culture and art.” Mengi who asks If there is no memory, what remains?”, adds: “This process is not acceptable! We must not remain silent, we must stand side by side, we must stand by Anadolu Kültür!”

Necati Sönmez, documentary filmmaker and festival organizer, who emphasized that “being a ‘non-profit institution’ is considered an unforgivable crime in an order where it is considered a skill to manage the state like a company and where profit is worshiped”; adds “In other countries, such institutions are ensured to be afloat, the projects they carry out for the benefit of society are supported by the funds allocated from the state budget for culture, etc. Anadolu Kültür’s activities are already evident, its documents have gone over with a fine-tooth comb for months to uncover its fault, and the ‘wanted crime’ has not been found. So what did Anadolu Kültür do? Up till today, it has carried out hundreds of cultural projects in a wide geography, worthy of its name, touched the lives of thousands of people from disadvantaged groups, including children and young women, introduced them to art and culture, but it was off its own bat, not with the public funds distributed for the purpose of ‘benefice’. There are unforgivable crimes in the eyes of our State,”.


Stating that in the absence of Anadolu Kültür and similar foundations, many fields will lose an important support from contemporary art to independent cinema, Sönmez said, “We will also be deprived of cultural bridges, dialogue efforts and joint productions established with neighboring countries. The lives of young people, who do not have a chance to access art other than pop culture in rural cities, pass between the exam marathon imposed by education and family life, and are deprived of activities that will enable them to discover themselves and their talents and breathe.”

Stating, “I could have called for business people who are the founders of foundations that produce culture, organize festivals and events for Anadolu Kültür,” Sönmez says: “But unfortunately, they have already decided to ignore such calls. It is clear that one of the heavy tolls that is wanted to be charged to Osman Kavala and that continues to be charged with an unbelievable unlawfulness is being charged to Anadolu Kültür, which he founded. If there is a real culture and art community in Turkey, it has to react to it just for its own future. Because the principle of computational fluid in physics is also valid in social life. If you become an onlooker to the murder of independent initiatives in the field of culture and arts, for example; a few years later, you may not be able to find a decent film to show at the film festival you organize, your biennials may be left to plain and botched works. If you like, we can call it the law of ‘hodie mihi cras tibi’.”

The culture and art center and discussion area, named Depo by Anadolu Kültür, is the apple of the eye especially for those who produce in the field of contemporary art. In this context, those who produce in the field of contemporary art also underline the call not to remain silent about what is going on.


Saying, “Let’s be with Anadolu Kültür and those it defends without fear…”, the artist Banu Cennetoğlu emphasizes that if it is closed, those who remain silent will also be responsible.

Cennetoğlu also draws attention to the following: “Anadolu Kültür has collaborated with courage, believing that art can serve dialogue, peace, solidarity, and confronting the difficult in a way that is not seen or to be seen in these lands. In short, it did what it believed in, believed in what it did, and preferred not to brag too much about what it did in order to live together better. I think this is an attack on everyone who believes and truly believes in the values I shared above… If we fail to protect it and remain silent, I think we are and will be responsible for the destruction of Anadolu Kültür and the (intended) civil society.”

Stating that Anadolu Kültür carries on a culture and art activity that goes beyond the borders of Istanbul, artist Sena Başöz adds: “It supported the culture and arts field by providing funds for film and exhibition production, and venue for exhibitions and projections. Moreover, it worked to ensure that cultural and artistic activities were not limited to Istanbul, but spread to Anatolia. It carried out works and held exhibitions to raise awareness about cultural heritage assets. It tried to create an environment of peace and dialogue in our country and in our relations with the world. It worked to include disadvantaged groups in social life. It kept alive the past that has been suppressed or ignored.”


“The support for contemporary art in Turkey is very weak. Anadolu Kültür is an institution whose doors are open to everyone. It is a very modest institution when considered the works it has carried out,” said Başöz, emphasizes “If you have a project in the field of culture and arts, you can be sure that they will listen to you regardless of who you are. As an artist living in this country, I know the value of this well. In addition, it is very valuable that they carry out their activities only in Istanbul and that they want to spread them to Anatolia. In a period when social polarization is on the rise both in Turkey and in the world, the closure of this institution, which tries to ensure peace and dialogue through cultural and art projects, would be a great loss.”

Stating, “We must protect Anadolu Kültür and work to increase such entities,” Başöz reminds, “They have contributed efforts maybe in an inspiring exhibition, maybe in a concert, maybe in a project that opens the horizons of a young person, in a research.”


Kültigin Kağan Akbulut, Founding Editor-in-Chief of Argonatlar, says, “If I am an art writer today and strive to establish a new art publication, it is primarily thanks to Depo Istanbul and of course its supporter Anadolu Kültür.” and continues his words as follows: “At the end of the 2000s, I was wandering around art venues as an interested person in contemporary art. I was investigating the potentials of contemporary art as an innovative form of expression. However, I was living with the thought that “Something is missing!” from cool galleries and flamboyant art institutions. In 2011, when I went to see the 20th year exhibition of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, The Place Where the Ember Falls, to which many artists and initiatives contributed, the things that went through my mind fell into place. Although the political atmosphere of the country and democratization problems are discussed in Turkish contemporary art, seeing the exhibition The Place Where the Ember Falls, which reveals this accumulation, and meeting Depo Istanbul, where the exhibition takes place, made me see which way to go.”

Akbulut, who says, “I think that the biggest shortcoming in the field of contemporary art in Turkey and of course in Istanbul is the very few number of independent and medium-sized institutions,” draws attention to another aspect of it; “On the one hand, there are large art institutions supported by big companies and banks, and on the other hand, initiatives that progress with volunteer work but have budgetary problems. Anadolu Kültür ve Depo constitute a breathing space for many artists, writers and curators within this ecosystem. Let alone protection, we need to think about how we can increase their power and influence, we need to work on how we can create more Depo. Otherwise, it is easy as pie for us to see an art ecosystem that is either retiring into its shell or increasingly dependent on capital”.


Artist Hale Tenger, who started by saying, “First of all, I have a word or two about this “non-profit” issue” states “While the understanding of making a profit at any cost is dragging Turkey and the whole world into economic and ecological disasters, any initiative that does not aim to make a profit should be supported and cherished. The state officials should thank Anadolu Kültür instead of filing a lawsuit. While it is a known fact that the public support for art and culture in Turkey is already very weak, the support and contribution of Anadolu Kültür for years in this field is very valuable.”


Tenger concludes her words with some reminders and a call, “In the 1990s, institutions such as Taksim Art Gallery, Atatürk Cultural Center, Tarık Zafer Tunaya Cultural Center and Atatürk Library, which were the leading public places of cultural production in Istanbul, were either demolished or made dysfunctional by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Looking back from today, it is much clearer how this was a planned, long-term and conscious political move. This is exactly why Anadolu Kültür is get to as an institution that fills this field. It is possible to demolish buildings and burn institutions, but the thought does not disappear, according to the missing cover of non-existent law. It is not possible, it has not happened in history, and it cannot be. You’d better give it up. Do not be afraid of what you do not understand. Don’t hate. “Stand out of the sunlight” You can step down.”