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Oktay Ince. Photo: Twitter.
Oktay Ince. Photo: Twitter.

Turkish Filmmaker Arrested for Protesting Government Confiscation of Archive

Turkish filmmaker and activist Oktay Ince was detained in Ankara on Thursday, May 30, after he shackled himself to a pole outside the offices of the Ministry of Culture’s General Film Directorate. The arrest was the latest in the Turkish government’s crackdown on dissident activities.

The fifty-nine-year-old was protesting the authorities’ seizure of his video archive, which spans twenty years, reports Hyperallergic. On October 16, 2018, officers raided Ince’s home and confiscated twenty hard discs, ten flash drives, and forty-one DVDs containing his films and documentation dating back to 1999. His archive includes footage of the Kurdish struggle for liberation; Turkey’s anti-militarist movement and LGBTQ struggles; local villagers’ fights against landlords; and resistance to the purging of 150,000 academics and public servants under Statutory Decree No. 696 (KHK). Activists have used much of his documentation to disprove false claims brought against them by the state and police.

Though Turkish police are authorized to make copies, they are not allowed to keep the originals of the archives. Ince has not received information about when his work will be returned, and a case accusing him of “promoting the propaganda of terrorist organizations” is pending against him. “I want my films, my writings, and my archive back,” Ince said to passersby as he was taken into custody last Thursday. “Free journalism, free cinema.”

The nonprofit PEN America wrote to Turkish ministers in November 2018, demanding the return of the archive. The minister of the interior, Suleyman Soylu, responded in February: “Your biased request for dropping the charges against a person who is currently facing a legal investigation conflicts with the principle of rule of law, which has universal validity.” Istanbul-based film critic Senem Aytac told Hyperallergic that proper legal channels were not an option for Ince because “the legal system in Turkey has almost collapsed.” 

The artist’s first arrest dates back to the 1980 coup d’état in Turkey, when he was sentenced to six years in prison. In the past twenty years, he has been apprehended by the police more than forty times for recording protests and demonstrations. Two days prior to his arrest last week, Ince was taken into custody while attempting to stage another protest; he was also arrested last month for allegedly “insulting the president” while demanding the return of his archive, which he calls the “battle of his life.”