Skip to main content

Turkish districts ban film by Kurdish 'traitor' director

Kirmizigul, a renowned director with titles such as Five Minarets in New York to his credit, is a Kurd from Diyarbakir’s Sur district
The film 'Vezir Parmagi', or the Vizier’s Finger in English is a comedy set in Ottoman times (screengrab)

ISTANBUL, Turkey – The mayors of two Turkish municipalities have slapped screening bans on the latest film by renowned Kurdish director Mahsun Kirmizigul, calling him a “traitor” and saying the movie “lampooned national values”.

The film Vezir Parmagi, or the Vizier’s Finger in English is a comedy set in Ottoman times and had its countrywide release on 25 January.

Mehmet Ture, the mayor of Anamur district in the southern province of Mersin, who is from the right -wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said he wouldn’t allow the film to be screened in his district since he wasn’t willing to provide a stage for a sympathiser of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“As long as I am around, a film like Vezir Parmagi or something similar by someone like Mahsun Kirmizigul will never hit the screens within the boundaries of Anamur,” Ture was reported as saying by local media.

Ture, a retired military captain, went on to say that if a film is to be made, then let it be a film where the script involves our police and soldiers fighting the terrorist PKK. He also offered his script-writing services to Kirmizigul and said the intention behind the ban was not political posturing.

“It is impossible for artists like Mahsun Kirmizigul, artists who sympathise with the PKK, to interact with the public in Anamur,” he said.

The only cinema in Anamur, with a population of 64,000, belongs to the municipality.

The screening ban in Anamur was quickly followed by a similar ban in the Develi district of Kayseri province.

Mehmet Cabbar, the mayor of Develi who is from the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), announced that municipal theatres in the district would not screen the film since it was against “national spiritual values”.

“This film called Vezir Parmagi by Mahsun Kirmizigul will absolutely not be screened in cinema theatres belonging to our municipality… the trailers of this film, which are being shown in the media, are contrary to our national spiritual values and contain scenes that literally make fun of our ancestors,” he said.

The culture ministry is responsible for issuing screening permits in Turkey. The ministry had not reacted to these local bans as of Tuesday.

Targeted for ‘tweets’

Kirmizigul, a renowned director with titles such as Five Minarets in New York to his credit, is a Kurd from Diyarbakir’s Sur district.

Officials and pro-government media labelled him a PKK sympathiser after a series of very critical tweets in 2015 as fighting raged in Sur between government forces and the urban units of the PKK, which had set up barricades and declared “autonomous” zones.

He called for a stop to the deaths and violence in his tweets. Detractors say he never once condemned the PKK for its violence.

Many deaths were reported as a result of the clashes and vast sections of the historic district of Sur were reduced to rubble.

Turkey has a long history of film censorship.

For instance, all films by Yilmaz Guney, a prominent director and winner of the Palme de’Or in 1982, were banned in Turkey after the 1980 military coup. The ban was only lifted in 2011, and the culture ministry went on to publish DVDs of all his works.

The last film to be completely banned was a feature documentary called Bakur in 2015. It focused on telling the story of PKK militants. The PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, has been engaged in clashes with the Turkish state since 1984.

The conflict has claimed at least 40,000 lives.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.