Turkey continues crackdown, arrests Kurdish film director

Authorities accused Kazim Oz of "terror propaganda." The Turkish Ministry of Culture once funded one of his movies but later censored and suppressed.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities on Saturday arrested an award-winning Kurdish film director, Kazim Oz, in his native Dersim province with charges of “membership in a terror group” and “terrorist propaganda.”

Turkish prosecutors in the city of Diyarbakir issued an arrest warrant for Oz before police took him into custody at a ferry terminal on the Euphrates Keban Dam in Dersim’s Pertek district.

The director shared the news of his detention on Instagram with a short note that he was wanted. Oz, who is the second Kurdish director after Giyasettin Sehir to be arrested in the past two months, gave no further details in his post.

It was not immediately clear what constituted the content of the accusations against Oz.

But in recent years, his movies about Kurdistan and Kurds’ fight to claim their identity and culture have been at the center of much controversy regarding artistic freedom and censorship by authorities in Turkey.

“You cannot watch the scene here because the General Directorate of Cinema the Turkish Republic’s Ministry of Culture has found it objectionable,” a note on a black screen on each censored part of his latest film “Zer read during a screening last year at the 36th Istanbul Film Festival.

A scene from Kazim Oz’s movie Zer which he shot in his native Dersim during a time of peace talks between Turkey and the Kurds.
A scene from Kazim Oz’s movie Zer which he shot in his native Dersim during a time of peace talks between Turkey and the Kurds.

That very movie, telling the story of a young man who discovers his Kurdish roots at the deathbed of his genocide survivor grandmother at a New York City hospital, was partially funded by the Turkish Ministry.

However, that was during a time of peace talks between Ankara and Kurdish fighters when Oz shot Zer in Dersim, the location of a Turkish military campaign and ensuing genocide by the administration of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1937-8 against Alevi Kurdish tribes who refused to be ruled by Ankara.

After the talks failed and the now ongoing phase of decades-long conflict was reignited over Kurds’ demands for autonomy in 2015, the Ministry began to suppress Zer which it once supported.

Nonetheless, the movie found an audience elsewhere and received awards at film festivals in France, Germany, Spain, and the Kurdistan Region.

The Erdogan administration’s clampdown also targeted a German-Kurdish singer, Hozan Cane, earlier this month when an Istanbul court sentenced her to six years and three months in prison over charges of “membership in a terrorist group” for her social media posts.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany