The Sur Culture Road Festival, organised by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and scheduled to take place in the Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) district of Sur, has been cancelled following objections from Islamist parties.
Vedat Turgut, the Diyarbakır provincial chairman of the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR), a far-right Islamist political party affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said that it would be unreasonable to hold the festival, due to take place between 14-22 October, in light of the Israel-Hamas war. He called for the festival to be cancelled and for its budget be sent to the Palestinian people.
“These festivals, which would cost millions of liras from the pockets of our people, must be cancelled immediately. The budget allocated for these events should be sent to the brotherly people of Palestine (Gaza) who are suffering from hunger, thirst and poverty,” Turgut said.
Another political party that called for the cancellation of the festival was the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), on similar grounds.
“A great disrespect to the memory of 30,000 people”
Prior to the ministry’s cancellation of the festival, there were also protests against the festival by various civil society organisations in Diyarbakır. Herdem Doğrul, the head of the Chamber of Architects Diyarbakır branch, said the festival was “a great disrespect to the memory of 30,000 people”, adding that “the memory of the newly rebuilt Sur is being destroyed while people are being disrespected”.
Doğrul drew attention to the clashes in Sur, where the festival was to be held, which took place during the infamous curfews and armed siege by Turkish security forces in the Kurdish-majority provinces between late 2015 and early 2016, after the short-lived peace process collapsed.
“Society cares about moral values, traditions and rituals of faith. It even organises its whole life around them. Sur is a crime scene. The bodies of dozens of people are lying there. Therefore, organising entertainment in a place that has witnessed such great traumas actually means going against all moral and traditional values of the society,” he said.
Referring to a statement made by then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during the Sur clashes, in which he expressed the intention to turn Sur into Toledo, Doğrul pointed out that this tourism attempt had been unsuccesful, with the expected interest in daily tours falling short of the targets.
As a result, the focus has now shifted back to engaging the local community, with the festivals being organised as a means of garnering local support, explained Doğrul. “The intention is to legitimise the creation of a new space and a new memory through these festivals,” he stressed. From Doğrul’s perspective, this approach is disrespectful to the memory of the 30,000 people who were displaced from Sur.