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Osman Kavala.
Osman Kavala.

Museum Group Demands Release of Turkish Activist Osman Kavala

The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) published a statement calling for the release of Turkish businessman, arts patron, and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who is the chair of the cultural nonprofit Anadolu Kültür (Anatolian Culture) and has been detained in a Turkish prison for over a year. Anadolu Kültür fights for the rights of artists and marginalized communities. It also runs a small, vital arts center in Istanbul known as Depo.

CIMAM also spoke out against the Turkish police’s detainment of a group of thirteen Turkish academics and cultural workers last November. The 2018 arrest included board members and advisers of Anadolu Kültür—Asena Günal, Yiğit Ekmekçi, Hakan Altınay, Meltem Aslan, and Çiğdem Mater—and was seen as a continued crusade against Kavala, whom Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reportedly called “the red Soros of Turkey” and the mastermind behind the 2013 Gezi Park demonstrations. 

“CIMAM, the international association of contemporary art museums, is deeply concerned by these events which it considers to be in violation of Turkey’s commitments to human rights and the fundamental freedoms of transparent debate and the exchange of ideas within society,” reads the statement. “CIMAM believes this situation represents systematic harassment of leading cultural professionals and we wish to express our solidarity with our colleagues in Turkey. CIMAM asks for Osman Kavala to be immediately released.”

In November 2017, counterterrorist police at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul arrested Kavela, who was returning from Gaziantep in Turkey’s Anatolia region, where he was discussing a project at the Goethe-Institut. While he remains in prison, he has still not been charged.