In her speech as Climate Ambassador for the Eco Climate Economy and Climate Change Summit, Turkish actress Beren Saat lamented a downturn in the quality of life in Turkey.
“Turkey is bleeding out in arts, in sports. Expert academics are failing to reach their students. Women are afraid, young people have lost their dreams, and our people have in time lost their culture”, Saat said.
The actress, who is a strong proponent for women’s rights, also mentioned the rising rate of poverty and increasing femicides in Turkey.
Criticism of the government was met with praise for its achievements in infrastructure projects, Saat said, voicing a common criticism against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Saat said, “When we voiced our concerns over the regression in our education system, the shutting down of the Women’s Ministry, and women systemically losing their rights, we were told to look at the bridges and roads that were working oh-so-well.
“When we spoke out against censorship in the press and for the arts, we were told to ‘turn towards the East after seeking out the West for so long’. Because many people who could have taken action back then looked the other way, today the highest esteemed universities in our country are losing their prestige.”
In her speech, Saat expressed “great joy” at the lifting of the headscarf ban in public, which had prevented veiled women from accessing higher education for more than three decades. The ban in universities was lifted in 2007, five years after the AKP came to power.
Saat’s comments received backlash from supporters of the AKP, with many criticising the acclaimed actress for the characters she portrayed in film and television.
Meanwhile Ebubekir Şahin, president of Turkey’s media watchdog the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), targeted Saat in a speech he gave at the Countering Disinformation in Audio Visual Media Workshop and accused her of spreading disinformation.
ANKA News Agency cited Şahin as saying; “She gave disinformation while looking us straight in the eyes”.
Ministers and other government officials had been in the audience as Saat spoke in the summit.
“This disinformation is in no way congruent with our society, and many would perhaps consider it odd”, he continued. “The duty for our media is to be aware when relaying such disinformation to our people and fulfil its duties to prevent it”.
“Disinformation is a matter of national security. Even going beyond that, it becomes a global security issue”, the RTÜK head said. “We are in favour of dialogue, but we do not hesitate to use methods of punishment and penalty in cases of violations”.