The chairman of Istanbul’s leading art fair disparaged international coverage of Turkish military activity in Syria.
Visitors at the 2018 edition of Contemporary Istanbul. Courtesy Contemporary Istanbul.
The chairman of Contemporary Istanbul, Turkey’s largest art fair, has accused international press of spreading disinformation about Turkish military action against Syrian Kurds. Ali Güreli sent the statement to foreign journalists on October 14th, though it was dated September 14th. In it, he called coverage of the attacks “fabricated news and comments” and asked friends of the fair to not take the “manipulative news, comments, and posts” seriously.
Turkish forces entered Syria Wednesday in Operation Peace Spring, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said was meant to “destroy the terror corridor” he claimed Kurdish forces were trying to create on the southern border of Turkey. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia in northeastern Syria that was until recently supported by U.S. troops, warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the region due to the conflict. The BBC reported that dozens of civilians have already been killed and that 150,000 more have been forced to flee from their homes.
In the statement, Güreli wrote:
Turkey’s current operation does not target any ethnic group, nation, or country; rather it purely and simply aims to neutralize the elements that pose a terrorist threat on a regional and global scale as well as to our country.
Güreli went on to discuss the group PKK, deemed to be a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States, and the group YPG, an offshoot of the PKK that has long tried to establish an autonomous state for the Kurds.
Hakan Topal, a coordinator for the East++ Institute at Purchase College, which focuses on alternative art and culture in the Middle East and beyond, told The Art Newspaper:
No one can show political work in Istanbul museums anymore. Works [of a] political nature are overlooked or censored. Art spaces [. . .] are focusing on rather cute issues these days.
In his statement, Güreli added that Operation Peace Spring will not harm the Turkish economy, which has actually been boosted “thanks to the recent attacks it was exposed to, resulting in upward accelerating economic indicators that reflect positively on the art scene and market.”