Turkey and Pornography 'We Are Becoming Islamized'
Three academics at an Istanbul university were sacked after a student made a porn film for his dissertation project. The Turkish painter and performance artist Bedri Baykam, 53, spoke with SPIEGEL about the limits of artistic freedom in his country.
SPIEGEL: A film student at Istanbul's Bilgi University shot a pornographic film for his final dissertation project, something that provoked widespread protests. What is your response to the criticism?
Bedri Baykam: Pornography is not illegal in Turkey. Nevertheless, three lecturers were fired and the public prosecutor's office intervened. The police carried out a raid on the Istanbul university as if they were dealing with dangerous terrorists.
SPIEGEL: Is pornography automatically art, or is it protected by academic freedom?
Baykam: I didn't see the film. It hasn't been made public. But the artistic quality of it, for me, doesn't matter. Here is a student whose work is being curtailed, and an entire faculty is being criminalized.
SPIEGEL: Do you really see this as a threat to artistic freedom?
Baykam: Much more than that. Our government is trying, step by step, to turn our community inside out. Professors are being intimidated, and university rectors are being brought into line ideologically. Things that ostensibly do not fit with Islam are being eradicated.
SPIEGEL: Is there other evidence for this serious accusation?
Baykam: For example, during his visit to the city of Kars on the Armenian border, Prime Minister Erdogan called a monument made by well-known artist Mehmet Aksoy, and symbolizing the friendship between the two peoples, monstrous. The sculpture is now supposed to be torn down. That is like under the Nazis, when certain art was villified as being degenerate.
SPIEGEL: Now you are exaggerating.
Baykam: Unfortunately, a lot of Turks have not noticed how our country is slowly and steadily becoming Islamized. Erdogan is turning out the light -- not all at once, but instead very slowly. He is dimming it until, one day, it will be completely dark.
Interview conducted by Daniel Steinvorth