“There is no such thing as a theater being funded by the state in most developed countries,” Erdoğan said at a meeting of the youth branch of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in İstanbul, announcing that he would ask the Cabinet to push for privatization.
Erdoğan's announcement comes amid tension between theater artists and the government after İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş introduced new regulations governing theaters earlier this month. According to the new regulations, a so-called Literary Council is to be formed and will include not only theater artists but officials appointed by the mayor as well.
The council's role will be to decide on what plays can be staged in theaters funded by the municipality. Artists have protested the new regulations as political interference in art, with the municipality claiming their decision is an attempt to pave the way for individuals other than artists to have a say in the plays that theaters put on.
Erdoğan also targeted artists protesting the new decision in his speech. “Who are you? Do you have a monopoly on art in Turkey?” he asked, asserting that the days when “despotic intellectuals” used to lecture and humiliate the masses are over.
“I am privatizing the theaters. This is what I am going to propose. Stage whatever play you want after privatization,” he said, criticizing the theatre artists for both being paid by the municipality and freely criticizing the authorities in their plays. “Here is the freedom you want. Stage the plays you want wherever you want,” he said.
PM against freeing jailed deputies
The prime minister also dashed opposition parties’ hopes to see jailed deputies freed from prison, saying they knew the controversial status of these people before nominating them for the elections.
Noting that there are efforts to blame the AK Party for the situation of members of Parliament under arrest, Prime Minister Erdoğan said: “The issue has nothing to do with the AK Party, but it’s something crafted by the opposition parties themselves. These parties knew very well what the result would be. But acting insincerely, they have produced the crisis for which they are now trying to put the blame on the AK Party.”
Indicating that the national will is being treated with disrespect by deliberately generating trouble, Erdoğan said, “The responsibility lies with the Republican People’s Party [CHP], the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] and the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] for this problem of deputies under arrest.”