Free Speech

Administrative court to hold hearing for the decision to ban Kurdish play Bêrû 

İstanbul 10th Administrative Court scheduled a hearing for May 31, Monday to hear MLSA’s demand for the suspension of the execution of the İstanbul Gaziosmanpaşa District Governorship’s decision to ban Kurdish play Bêrû.

On October 13 of last year, the Kurdish adaptation of Dario Fo’s play, “Bêrû: Klakson Borîzan û Birt” by Teatra Jiyana Nû was banned by the district governorship hours before its staging at the City Theatres of İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Gaziosmanpaşa Stage.

Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) lawyers had applied to the İstanbul 2nd Administrative Court for the suspension of the execution of this decision, filing a lawsuit on behalf of Barış Altıntaş, an audience member, claiming that the decision was a violation of freedom of expression.

The Court ruled for an interim decision on November 20, requesting from the Gaziosmanpaşa District Governorship the script and its Turkish translation if available, in addition to being informed on whether there were any applications made to legal and administrative authorities on the staging of the play. The Court also requested detailed information regarding the play’s past stagings from the Directorate of City Theatres.

Case background

İstanbul Gaziosmanpaşa District Governorship banned the Kurdish adaptation of Dario Fo’s play based on the claim that “it could disturb the peace of the public.” 

MLSA lawyers carried the ban to the administrative court and emphasized in the petition the fact that the decision to ban the play was in violation of the rights of those who demand to see plays in Kurdish. Moreover, it was claimed that the district governorship’s decision was in violation of the Turkish Constitution, as it constituted the violation of the freedom of expression of both the theatre company, and the members of the audience.

Bêrû was banned for a second time, on November 14, by the Urfa Governorship hours before its staging at the Urfa Bar Association’s Tahir Elçi Conference Hall.

Statements from the Governor and the Ministry of Interior 

Following the ban, İstanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya released a statement on Twitter, claiming that the play was banned “not because it is Kurdish, but because it contains PKK propaganda,” announcing that legal action is taken against Bêrû.

“Kurdish theater is of course allowed. However, we cannot allow a play that contains PKK propaganda to be staged, whether it is in Kurdish, Turkish or Arabic. We have launched legal action against those who have authorized the staging of this play. İstanbul Governorship will make a statement on the matter,” Deputy Minister of the Turkish Interior Ministery İsmail Çataklı said in a statement shared on Twitter.