Cultural Leaders Urge Angela Merkel to Act for Release of Jailed Artists in Turkey

German-Turkish relations have plunged to a new low.

German chancellor Angela Merkel meets the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan shortly before the official start of the G20 meeting on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China. Photo by Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung via Getty Images.

Following an initiative by Berlin’s Academy of the Arts, numerous leaders of German cultural institutions have signed an open letter urging German chancellor Angela Merkel to commit to working towards the immediate release of jailed artists in Turkey.

“We urge the German government to act as quickly as possible to counter this horrific development in Turkey with diplomacy and political pressure,” they appeal in the letter signed and released yesterday, October 7.

The signatories stated that “We will underline our solidarity with those detained and persecuted through invitations, joint art projects, and debate panels which we will integrate into the programming [of the respective cultural institutions].”

Cultural leaders who’ve signed the letter include directors of state-funded institutions such as the Capital Cultural Fund, the artist residency program of the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Services), and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, as well as theater houses, Berlin’s literature festival, and the Frankfurt Book Fair, among others.

The appeal argues that democratic values, freedom of speech, and human rights are being violated in Turkey under Erdogan through an unprecedented wave of arrests, targeting journalists, authors, scientists, and voices from the opposition.

In addition, a petition for freedom of expression, information, and press has been launched by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, PEN Centre Germany, and Reporters Without Borders Germany.

The petition, which addresses Merkel and the president of the EU-Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, states that since the coup attempt in July 2016, “Freedom of expression is in acute danger in Turkey.”

“Turkish authorities have taken large-scale action against journalists and media outlets critical of the government. […] Journalists have had their passports revoked, authors have been detained, over 130 media companies have been closed.”

Germany is home to about 3 million residents with Turkish roots, who make up the largest ethnic minority in the country. What’s more, the Turkish residents of Berlin represent the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey.

According to the EU Observer, German-Turkish relations are at an all time low. Most recently, Turkey has accused Germany of sheltering Kurdish terrorists, and threatened once more to scrap the EU migrant deal.

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