Kurdish cultural festival banned in Turkey
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Turkish authorities in the Kurdish city of Dersim recently banned an annual festival which celebrates the culture and nature of the province.
A written statement to the organizers, signed last week by the Ankara-appointed governor's office, said the state of emergency Turkey was under "did not allow citizens to hold the festival or any other public assembly, walks, and protests."
If allowed, the 'Munzur Nature and Culture Festival' would be celebrated for the 17th time on July 27-30, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from the area and abroad, including members of Kurdish diaspora, and hundreds of university students.
The governorate also alleged that "certain groups could use the festival for other purposes and lead to a disruption of peace and tranquility while creating a clear and near danger for the public security," reported Kurdistan24's Turkish language service.
Preparations were already underway for at least two months when the ban was imposed.
One of the organizers, Hidir Demir, told media at a Tuesday press conference that the banning of the festival was a "double standard."
He argued that the same day the government convened hundreds of thousands of people in every major city for the commemoration of the last year's July 15 failed military coup attempt, the governorate banned the Dersim event.
"We reject and condemn this ban on people displaced and forced to live outside Dersim, whose villages have been burnt down but still long for a reunion with their brethren and nature," said Demir, hinting at the Turkish governments' military policies in the region.
The formerly pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party-held (DBP) Dersim municipality was sponsoring the event, which included music concerts, photography exhibitions, traditional folk dance performances, literary and art talks, book signing days, and city tours.
The Interior Ministry seized the municipal administration in November 2016 after the dismissal and subsequent arrest of the elected Co-mayors Mehmet Ali Bul and Nurhayat Altun as a part of an ongoing massive crackdown on Kurdish municipalities and local officials.
Previously, the trustee and governor whom the government had appointed to run municipal affairs, ruled out supporting the festival, citing "high financial costs."
Dersim, officially named as 'Tunceli' by the Turkish state following its 1938 military campaign against an uprising by the local Kurdish community, serves as an important cultural and political bastion for the adherents of Alevi faith which consider the rivers, mountains, and forests of the province to be sacred.
The festival itself is named after the Munzur mountains and the river that crosses them.
Editing by G.H. Renaud