Following questioning, the two actors were released — but they have not been allowed to leave Turkey. Their passports have been confiscated and once a week they have to report to the police. The Public Prosecutor's Office submitted a report on its investigation into "incitement to armed rebellion against the government of the Republic of Turkey."
"Incitement to armed rebellion"? What was it the two actors had actually said? "The only way of overcoming polarisation and chaos is through democracy," Akpinar had said on "The People's Arena" television programme. "If we don't succeed, we might see the same things that happen in all kinds of fascism. The ringleader will even be suspended by one of his legs, or he'll be poisoned in a dungeon."
Similarly, his colleague Gezen had not called for a revolt, but had criticised Erdogan: "he berates all and sundry, permanently raising his finger and telling everyone to know their limits. I'm telling you, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot put our love of our fatherland to the test. Know your limits."
Theatre critic Atilla Dorsay commented that in all democratic countries, government and civil society alike respect the role of artists. It is only dictatorial regimes that try to oppress them: "artists who levy even the slightest criticism at the government are condemned from pulpits, in courtrooms and in prison — that is the sad reality of Turkey."
Capitalising on polarisation
Erdogan, for his part, is increasingly directing aggression at cultural and artistic figures — despite the fact that the country is experiencing politically and economically rough times. Gulfem Saydan Sanver, Pollie Award recipient of the American Association of Political Consultants, says that has to do with the up-coming local elections.
During previous election campaigns, Erdogan consistently tried to position himself at the centre of every discussion, Sanver explained. "If we look at the outcome of the most recent elections, we see that Erdogan benefits from the polarisation of society he foments. Publicly accusing those artists is a part of that strategy."
Erdogan is creating the impression that society's conservative circles are under threat. For one thing, he is trying to consolidate his own electorate; for another thing, he is barring the opposition from taking their message to the people.
"In addition, Erdogan wants to hush up the repercussions of the economic crisis," Sanver said. "He is well aware that a climate of fear plays into the hands of the existing government, because a society in fear will always support the existing system. Harsh words directed at artists and launching investigations against them sends the message that criticising the government comes at a high price."
Aram Ekin Duran
© Deutsche Welle 2019