Turkish Extremists Scuttle the Screening of ?Ararat?

MONTREAL (ANC Canada)–Only days after extensive media coverage about Turkey’s readiness to allow theatrical screenings of the film Ararat–beginning on January 16–the film’s distributor–under threats from right-wing extremists–has decided to indefinitely postpone the showing of the movie.

In December–a spokesman for the Turkish cultural ministry said Ararat could be screened but a scene depicting Ottomans raping Armenian women had to be deleted. The decision came after a ministry commission reviewed the film and declared it suitable for viewing–with the exception of that one scene.

Historians–genocide scholars–and government officials reacted favorably to the news–indicating that Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Erkan Mumcu’s decision to not ban the screening of Ararat was a positive move to break the taboo on the open discussion of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey–and an important step for Turkey’s acceptance to the European Union.

The Turkish "Radical" newspaper suggested that the reason for this reversal was due to threats–intimidation–and blackmail by the Ulku Ocaklari group–a far right nationalist party closely allied with the Grey Wolves–a paramilitary group that advocates the establishment of Greater Turkey–stretching from the Balkans to Central Asia. The group also has close ties with the Turkish military establishment and MIT–the Turkish intelligence service.

Since the decision to allow the showing of Ararat–Ulku Ocaklari has engaged in a campaign of defiance against Minister Mumcu–the distributor of the film–and theater owners. In a December 28 press release–Ulku Ocaklari accused the AKP Islamist governing party of treason. "Those people who dare to show the movie?should not forget that there is a price for enmity towards the Turks," stated the Ulku Ocaklari press release. Ulku Ocaklari demanded that Mumcu reconsider his decision to allow the screening of the movie. " We call on the AKP government–Minister Erkan Mumcu–and the film distributing company to take our warning seriously and make the right decision," concluded the press release.

Ulku Ocaklari also flooded the streets of Istanbul with defamatory posters–depicted the movie’s makers and the governing party as enemies of Turkey–with an X sign on Ararat’s title.

The Armenian National Committee of Canada–noting the reversal–released the following statement: "It is unfortunate that 89 years after the Armenian Genocide–Turkey’s attitude remains unchanged. Intolerance and paranoia towards minorities are still the norm. So long as these attitudes prevail–Turkish society cannot be democratized or move forward to join the ran’s of civilized nations. Unless the Turkish Government and society comes to terms with its bloody history and acknowledges its crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing against its minorities–it will continue to be treated as a pariah nation."

For his part–writer-director Atom Egoyan said–"The real enemy of the Turkish people in this situation has been a government which has suppressed this from its own population," the director says.

"This is a movie that is about people negotiating history and what it means to carry this history and what it means to resolve and try and find some way of coming to terms with it."

Egoyan adds that many Turks have probably already seen the film anyway–either by ordering the video through amazon.com or through pirated copies.


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