Thursday, 3 January 2013

Turkey: Ertuğrul Günay interviewd

There is an interview in Hürriyet Daily News with Turkey's Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay. While the most obvious characteristic of the text is ("Fortress Turkey" against the world) national pride (it stresses how the Minister claims that his current policy of attempting to get illicitly obtained antiquities back to Turkey is causing panic in foreign museums), it contains much else besides. Including these two segments:

Turkey is accused of double standards and has been sent the message that it also has archaeological artifacts in its hands that it will need to return.

I have no problem with that. If there is international legislation that says all artifacts are to be exhibited on their original soil, we will return everything. But we are in a different situation. Pieces came from Saida and Sur [in Lebanon] – they were Ottoman lands. We have not stolen them from other countries; we have not exploited a lack of awareness or abused some so-called agreements. Our scientists who went there worked legally, like Osman Hamdi Bey and brought back some artifacts. However, if one day there is an international legislation that says, those artifacts that are from lands that are no longer within your borders, we’ll do it. But if we return 200 [artifacts], then the world will have to return back 20,000 artifacts to Turkey.

So you are committed to remaining strong against the anti-Turkish lobby.

Very much so. Actually this lobby is not only against us but against the awakening of all Eastern Europe and Near Asia. Western museums are very concerned about the establishment of a joint policy in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There is nothing stolen in our museums or in Greece’s museums. But European museums are full of artifacts from Turkey, Greece, Iraq and Syria. That’s why they’re worrying.
There is also passing reference to banning metal detector use, the meaning of which is unclear.

UPDATE September 1st 2015
Ertuğrul Günay was the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey between 29 August 2007 - 24 January 2013. He was replaced three weeks after this interview by Ömer Çelik (in office January 24, 2013 and August 28, 2015).

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