Kurdish filmmakers stand trial for the work they do, mostly accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “aiding a terrorist organisation”. They are detained and tried.

The 7th hearing of the retrial of journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and director Çayan Demirel on charges of “making propaganda for an illegal organisation” in connection with the Bakur (The North) documentary they shot and directed was held today at Batman 2nd Heavy Penal Court.

Çayan Demirel and his lawyer Meral Hanbayat Yeşil attended the hearing via Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS) from Istanbul, while Batman Bar Association President lawyer Erkan Şenses was present in the courtroom.

In the previous hearing, the prosecution had demanded a sentence for “making propaganda for an illegal organisation”.

Defence lawyer Meral Hanbayat Yeşil stated that the documentary in question served peace, not war, and drew attention to the peace process. She noted that this trial has been going on for years based on a police report.

Batman Bar Association President Erkan Şenses said, “It is out of the question to talk about any propaganda here. We need to look at the judgements of the ECtHR. Why would making this documentary in a time of peace process be an incitement to war? This is a documentary filmed within the scope of freedom of artistic expression. We demand the fulfilment of domestic law and the acquittal of our clients.”

Following the defences, the court announced its verdict after a short recess. The court sentenced Mavioğlu and Demirel to 1 year and 13 months each for “making propaganda for an illegal organisation”.

About the documentary

The film “A Guerrilla Documentary: Bakur”directed by journalist Ertugrul Mavioglu and Cayan Demirel and produced by Ayse Cetinbas, was shot during the 2013-2015 peace talks between Turkish government and Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) to end the 40 year long Kurdish-Turkish conflict. Nearly three years after the film’s Turkish premiere, the directors were brought to trial. Both of them stand charged with disseminating propaganda in favor of a terrorist organization under Article 7/2-1 of Law no. 3713 on Counter-Terrorism for their documentary film.

Bakur documents the everyday life and political life of the guerrillas and also shows the withdrawal of the PKK from the mountains after 2013.

The 92-minute documentary starts with the historic call of the Kurdish Leader Abdullah Öcalan that was read out at Newroz on 21 March 2013 in Amed and films the HPG guerrillas’ withdrawal from Turkey, and features interviews with the guerrillas.

For decades Turkey has silenced reports on the armed conflict with the Kurds. Bakur investigates issues of national identity, the history of the PKK, human rights, and the role of women in the conflict. The narrative is set against a backdrop of scenes from different PKK training camps in the mountainous border region between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, where the directors met confident young PKK members.

The documentary was to be screened at the 34th Istanbul Film Festival outside the competition in 2015. However, the screening was canceled by the festival management four hours before the scheduled screening.

The film is both honest and personal, linking individual lives with ideas of home and the right to resistance. The film expands this personal angle through political and historical evaluations by military and political PKK leaders. Bakur takes a clear political stance reclaiming self-determination as a universal human right.


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