Hundreds of Artists, Academics, and Writers Have Signed a Petition Calling for a Boycott of Cultural Institutions in Turkey

This report by Taylor Dafoe was published on artnet News, October 23, 2019

The petition comes on the heels of Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish regions in Syria.

Nearly 300 cultural figures have come together to sign a petition against Turkish state-sponsored academic and cultural institutions. The petition, forged in response to the Turkish invasion of Kurdish regions of Syria, calls for a boycott of “events, activities, agreements, or projects involving [the] Turkish government or government-funded cultural institutions.”

Among those who have signed the document are Noam Chomsky, Michael Taussig, Simon Denny, David Levi Strauss, Brian Eno, and Hiwa K.

“The Turkish state’s invasion of northeastern Syria has brought a dangerous state of war to the only relatively stable region in the country, threatening the lives of thousands with indiscriminate shelling, mass displacement, and continuous bombardment,” the petition reads. “The Turkish attack threatens to do enormous, perhaps irreversible, damage to international standards of law, human rights, and human freedom. It also threatens to destroy a unique experiment in feminist social transformation.”

The invasion began earlier this month, with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stated intention to set up a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria where he can move the more than 3 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Erdoğan phoned US President Trump prior to the invasion, warning him of his intentions. Trump endorsed the move despite previously backing Kurdish forces, and withdrew American troops from the region before the conflict began. 

A child holding a protest sign at the Save Rojava rally in New York. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images.
A child holding a protest sign at the Save Rojava rally in New York. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The petition urges its signers to stand in defense of Rojava, an autonomous territory that separated from Syria in 2012.

“Rojava is a beacon of hope for the peoples of the world, currently being faced by the prospect of outright genocide,” David Graeber, an anthropologist and activist that signed the petition, told The Canary. “It’s the responsibility of decent human beings everywhere to understand that neutrality is not an option.”

“The destruction of the Rojava Revolution, and the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, is now happening in our names after Donald Trump’s cowardly retreat and betrayal of the Kurds,” Levi Strauss, a critic and the chair of the MFA program in Art Writing at the School of Visual Arts, tells artnet News. (Levi Strauss co-edited a collection of essays about the Rojava Revolution in 2016.)

“He has left US troops in Northern Syria to protect the oil, but not the people who defeated the murderous forces of ISIS, fighting on behalf of the US.”

“Artists and writers must stand up to condemn the actions of this regime,” Levi Strauss added. “Erdogan’s mercenaries are now killing Kurds and others in Rojava in order to destroy the Rojava Revolution, an attempt to build a woman-centered society of social justice and peace.”