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Berlin theater group cancels Istanbul performance

November 7, 2017

A production of Richard III has become the latest casualty of strained relations between Berlin and Ankara. The theater has said it could not guarantee the safety of its staff following mass arrests in Turkey.

Berlin Schaubühne Lehniner Platz
Image: picture-alliance/Arco Images/Schoening

The Berliner Schaubühne theater announced on Tuesday that it was canceling an upcoming production of Shakespeare's Richard III in Istanbul. The short-notice decision to pull out of the city's international theater festival was made with "great regret," the theater said.

"The arrests of many journalists, scientists and human rights activists in recent weeks and months," as well as security concerns, were behind the decision, the Berliner Schaubühne said in a statement.

"The impossibility of being able to give those involved a guarantee of their personal security in the current situation ultimately led us not to travel to Turkey."

Well-known German actor Lars Eidinger had been set to star in the Shakespeare adaptation, which was to be one of 55 theater and dance programs set to take 13 different stages in Istanbul on 17 and 18 November. The production had been sold out weeks in advance.

According to Berlin-based daily Tagesspeigel, guest productions from Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are still planning to attend the festival.

German nationals jailed

Tensions between Ankara and the West have been on the rise since a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2015 emboldened the president to launch a widespread crackdown on political opposition. Tens of thousands of journalists, civil servants and academics have been dismissed from their posts or arrested, including German nationals.

German human rights activist Peter Steudtner was released on bail from Turkish prison at the end of October after spending months in prison on terrorism charges that he and fellow activists say are trumped-up. Steudtner had been detained with several other rights advocates, including the leaders of Amnesty International in Turkey.

A further sticking point in relations between Berlin and Ankara concerns journalist Deniz Yücel, the Turkey correspondent for the daily Die Welt. Yücel has been held in detention with no formal charges since February 14.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.
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