Actors, activists unite to defend forsaken cultural center

Actors, artists, activists and architects gathered in front of Istanbul’s layan Courthouse on Friday to file a criminal complaint against the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for preventing the restoration of the iconic Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM) The AKM, built in 1961 and prominently located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, is known as a pivotal center of Istanbul’s theatre and opera scene, hosting performances by the Istanbul State T

Actors, artists, activists and architects gathered in front of Istanbul’s CcedilaIlayan Courthouse on Friday to file a criminal complaint against the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for preventing the restoration of the iconic Atatuumlrk Cultural Center (AKM) The AKM, built in 1961 and prominently located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, is known as a pivotal center of Istanbul’s theatre and opera scene, hosting performances by the Istanbul State Theatre and the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet. However, the building has been closed pending restoration since 2008, and has since been left in dismal condition after a restoration that began in 2012 was halted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2013.

The closure of the AKM has stripped Istanbul art lovers of the city’s most important center of the culture and arts and its opera, ballet and theatre performances and concerts and exhibits, said acclaimed actress Meltem Cumbul, reading from a press statement. The press conference coincided with World Theatre Day, celebrated every year on March 27.

Cumbul and other concerned artists formed the We are the at the AKM initiative in late 2014 to defend the cultural center, which has sat forlornly for seven years since its closure. It was demolished in 2013, and no steps have been taken to refurbish the center The group said it intended to file a criminal complaint to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s office alleging that the Ministry of Culture and Arts is in violation of an article of Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property Law 2863.

The government’s failure to restore the AKM has been interpreted by many as an extension of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) opposition to the arts. The AKM, which was the lifeblood of Istanbul’s cultural life until its closure, has remained stagnant for seven years, held as a victim by the enemies of culture and the arts, said Cumbul.

Following the outbreak of the Gezi park protests that year, demonstrators climbed to the roof of the building and adorned it with huge flags and banners of various left-wing political parties and images of slain revolutionary icon Deniz GezmiI. The image of the decorated building with demonstrators gathered on its roof became one of the iconic visual symbols of the Gezi protests.

The base of the building has since been used as a meeting point for riot police. In the heat of the protests, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan caused a furor when he vowed to demolish the AKM and build a new opera house in its place as well as an adjacent mosque.

God willing, the AKM will be destroyed, ErdoIan had said. ErdoIan, known for his distaste of the state theatre, vowed to privatize it in 2012, infuriating actors and theatre enthusiasts.

You closed down, invaded and pillaged the AKM, but we want it! Leave it alone, we will restore it! said Cumbul. Among those in attendance in the crowd outside of CcedilaIlayan were well-known artist Bedri Baykam and opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN