Culture in Turkey – independent or insular?

As Turkey’s government pursues policies designed to ensure “cultural independence,” its withdrawal from international cultural events has led to accusations that it is turning inward and closing avenues of cultural exchange, Annalisa Quinn wrote for the New York Times.

Quinn spoke to Adil Kaya, the director of the Turkish-German Film Festival, which the Turkish Culture Ministry cut its funding for this year after around a decade.

This is a sign that the festival’s premise – “to support the intercultural exchange between two cultures” – was viewed negatively by a government that is “increasingly suspicious of the West,” according to Kaya.

Turkey’s relations with the West have been taking a beating in recent years, due to the government’s explicitly anti-Western rhetoric, its practice of arresting foreign citizens to use in “hostage diplomacy,” and the strategic rift on regional Middle Eastern politics.

Far from taking a hit from these deteriorating relations, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in fact “makes quite a lot of electoral gain out of vilifying the West,” Quinn quote Georgetown University scholar Sinan Ciddi as saying.

This, combined with Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s belief that Western cultural norms are an alien corrupting influence on the country’s natural Islamic culture, may have motivated the withdrawal from events like the film festival that promote cultural exchange.