Turkish Amsterdammers appreciate exhibition
14 December 2006 – An exhibition on
Istanbul will open next Saturday in the Nieuwe Kerk. Turkish Amsterdammers
hope that the initiative will contribute to mutual understanding.
“It is a cosmopolitan city, where people with different religions
live together and with many civilizations”. The exhibition
might have been a bit more critical though, some find.
See also: Ottoman treasures at
the Nieuwe Kerk
Nieuwe Kerk has a reputation for involving our country's large communities
in its exhibitions, said Chief of Communication and Education Frans
van der Avert. This time, the famous singer Sezen Aksu has narrated
the Turkish version of the audio tour. Also, hundreds of buses full
of school children will come visit the exhibition.
“I find that the Turkish community is rather closed. In comparison
with other immigrants, there is little communication with people
outside the community”, says Emel Can, district council member
for the Green Party in de Baarsjes. “An exhibition that will
familiarize people with Istanbul and Turkey is always a good thing.
This will help bridge the gap between the Turkish community and
“Every initiative to promote mutual understanding is a positive
thing”, says Nuri Karabulut, chairman of the workers’
organisation DIDF. In his view, Istanbul is a suitable theme. “It
is a cosmopolitan city, where people with different religions live
together and with many civilizations. In that respect, it is a very
At the same time, he emphasizes that efforts should not be limited
to cultural initiatives. “Many problems that people cope with
are of a social-economic or legal nature. In order to promote integration,
you will have to deal with that as well”.
HTIB chairman Mustafa Ayranci finds it important that young people
are familiar with history, and not just Turkish history. “Sometimes
we get students in work placements who do not know about the February
Strike [a 1941 protest in Amsterdam against the deportation of Jews
– Ed]. ‘Well, I don’t know’, they say, ‘I
can’t be bothered’. That really makes me angry”.
Ayranci has already seen the exhibition. “It is good that
positive side is shown, the treasures. But attention must also be
given to the negative side. During the final period of the Ottoman
Empire, bad things have been done to Syrians, Kurds, Greeks, and
Armenians. I see nothing of all that at the exhibition”.
The Ottoman Empire has a reputation for having been relatively
tolerant: minorities had to pay more taxes, but for the rest they
were left alone. Ayranci: “That is the image we like to see.
But I have been in Bulgaria a couple of times, and there I hear
quite different stories”.
Can too would have liked to see other aspects included in the exhibition.
“I would show Istanbul in its generality: from the Ottoman
Empire, the presence of the Synagogue and the slums, to the modern
side of Istanbul. I find Istanbul an example of a universal, multicultural
Parallel to the exhibition, a cultural programme will be organised,
including a performance by Sezen Aksu. “Sezen Aksu is a very
good choice”, says Can. “She will definitely help involve
the Turkish community. In addition, I would have invited a musician
of Kurdish descent. That would improve relations between Kurds,
Turks and other minority groups. For Istanbul has seen a massive
influx of Kurds during the past ten years”.
Incidentally, the Nieuwe Kerk has had less than positive experiences
with this kind of sensitive issues. Two years ago, the Moroccan
government protested because a Morocco exhibition featured a map
with a dotted line between Morocco and Western Sahara. The map was
Meanwhile, the Turkish community does not seem to be aware of the
Istanbul exhibition yet. “I have recently spoken with many
people, but I have heard nothing about it”, says Karabulut.
“But that may be just me!”
According to Ayranci, it is mainly the representatives of organisations
who have already heard of the initiative. “Much must still
be done to inform the people in the street”.
Image: Portrait of Sultan Ahmed III by the painter Levni, 1703-1730,
Ottoman, paper, gilding, paint, 25 x 16.5 cm, Topkapi Palace Museum.
See also: Ottoman
treasures at the Nieuwe Kerk
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