The documentary “The Decree” was removed from the Antalya Altın Portakal Film Festival due to festival organisers citing an ongoing legal process involving an individual in the film. Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, the festival’s director, defended the action, which has been criticised as de facto censorship, stating the film was withdrawn to purportedly “avoid influencing the impartiality of the legal process”.
The removal comes amid a broader context where Turkey has seen over 130,000 public employees dismissed under State of Emergency (SoE) decree laws following the failed coup attempt in 2016. These dismissals have led to severe consequences, including a notably high rate of suicides among those affected. According to a 2022 report titled “State of Emergency Period Suicides – Tombstones as Evidence of Genocide”, 78 people dismissed under the decrees or their relatives have ended their lives since 4 October 2016.
Director Nejla Demirci clarified on social media that the documentary focuses on doctor Yasemin Demirci and teacher Engin Karataş, both dismissed from their jobs by decree during the State of Emergency period following the coup attempt. Demirci emphasised that neither Yasemin Demirci nor Engin Karataş are currently under any confirmed legal process; the only active case pertains to the legality of their dismissal.
Demirci also revealed that they had previously appealed to the Constitutional Court (AYM) when the documentary was banned during its production stage. The court ruled in favour of the film, considering it within the scope of freedom of expression and artistic freedom, and awarded compensation to Demirci.
The director labelled the festival’s decision as censorship, stating, “This injustice is a clear act of censorship against a society that should benefit from artistic freedom. The Turkish society, which desires law and democracy, has been victimised. This is a blow to documentary cinema, and the responsibility lies with the Antalya Altın Portakal Film Festival.”
While Boyacıoğlu stated that the film would be shown at the festival once the legal process concerning the individual is concluded, its inclusion in the competition had already sparked tension between the opposition-held Antalya Metropolitan Municipality and festival management. Mayor Muhittin Böcek, after meeting with the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in Ankara, convened with festival authorities to express his displeasure over the film’s inclusion. The Altın Portakal Film Festival lists the Ministry of Culture and Tourism among its primary sponsors.
Pro-Kurdish Green Left Party MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who is active in advocating for the human rights of the dismissed individuals, characterised the situation as inhumane and comparable to genocide. He underscored that those dismissed are grappling with economic hardships, social exclusion, and psychological distress, contributing to suicide rates 35 times higher and divorce rates 45 times higher than the general population.