Turkey: historic buildings, artefacts burned for TV; or not

A few weeks ago, there was really disheartening news in the Turkish press. Apparently, two Turkish TV shows had nonchalantly burned historic buildings and artefacts of the long-displaced Greek (Rum) community; but at least one of the shows assured the public that the news reports were wrong.

It seems the reassuring news was little reported within Turkey, and did not reach the (anyway minimal) English-language discussion.  This is an attempt to explain and correct the rumour.
Burning buildings for the sake of TV

The English-language title was not quite so troubling – TV Series’ Shoots Damage Cappadocia suggested careless, accidental harm; even the first paragraph blamed ‘recklessness’. A few websites and (micro)blogs have linked to the story; but it has not been presented or discussed in other news sources and blogs.  It looks like none of the English-language readers bothered to get past the first paragraph.

The Turkish-language title was more direct: Mahsun Kırmızıgül’ün Setinde Tarihi Ev Yakıldı [a Historic House was Burned on Mahsun Kırmızıgül’s Set]; but it was not an isolated incident.

The Foundation for the Promotion and Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage (ÇEKÜL (1)) explained what (it thought) had happened in Mustafapaşa town, Ürgüp district, Nevşehir province (central Turkey). ÇEKÜL local representative, historian Mustafa Kaya told how ‘[a]n antiquated [historic] Greek house… was set on fire for a TV series’ by Mahsun Kırmızıgül, ironically enough titled Hayat Devam Ediyor (Life Goes On).

And that was not all. Kaya went on to explain what had happened on another occasion, in Ürgüp town itself. There, ‘old buildings were damaged’ in the production of (Aysun Akyüz’s) Yer Gök Aşk (Love Is Everywhere): ‘wood and rubber were burned inside the church [Cemil Church]; and the TV show ‘also burned four precious cultural [artifacts] taken from the Private Cappadocia Art and History Museum’.

It has been reassuring to see the ‘large reaction in the area [bölgede büyük tepki]’ to the torching of the historic building, even if it is limited to criticism of the burning ‘albeit [being done] for the scene [senaryo gereği de olsa]’. (That phrasing may not sound wrong in Turkish; but in English it sounds like almost excusing the act as an attempt at artistic/historical authenticity.)

It was not only addressed by cultural heritage professionals/volunteers like the Archaeological Settlements of Turkey Project (TAY (2)). It has been discussed on Turkish CNN; internet news and community platforms have called it a ‘scandal [skandal]’.

Buildings ‘not burned in any way’

However, after it presented its report, Turkish CNN published the film company’s response. The series producer Murat Tokat explained:

Regarding to the show’s production, the house and assets were rented from the owner for a certain period of time to be used in the shoots…. Materials around the house, called the ‘façade’, burned and the impression of the house burning was given. I mean, in actuality, the house was not burned in any way; and it came to no harm; and the house’s historic fabric came to no harm…. Currently, these paints are being removed by the team; and, as soon as possible, this stone house will be delivered to its owner in its original state.(3)

Zaman, and several regional and local newspapers and websites, also reported that the Historic House Was Not Burned [Tarihi Ev Yakılmamış]; but, apparently, other national newspapers like Hürriyet and Radikal did not print the correction.

I have not been able to find an equivalent answer from the makers of Love Is Everywhere; but that could easily be because it is difficult to find by searching, or because content producers/providers/linkers consider something not happening not newsworthy.

There can be a disappointing lack of concern for the preservation of cultural heritage, and there is often evidence of thoughtless little acts at cultural heritage sites in Turkey; but evidently this was not one of those acts, and that is important to know.  At the very least, it is reassuring that the rumour was a scandal.

1: Çevre ve Kültür Değerlerini Koruma ve Tanıtma Vakfi (ÇEKÜL); possibly more closely translated as the Foundation for the Protection and Promotion of Environmental and Cultural Assets.

2: Türkiye Arkeolojik Yerleşmeleri.

3: ‘Dizinin çekimleri için bahsedilen ev, mal sahibinden belli bir süre çekimlerde kullanılmak üzere kiralanmıştır…. [E]vin etrafında ‘fasat’ adı verilen malzemeler yanmış ve sanki ev yanıyormuş görüntüsü verilmiştir. Yanı aslında ev hiçbir şekilde yanmamış ve zarar görmemiştir ve evin tarihi dokusuna hiçbir zarar verilmemiştir…. Şu anda bu boyalar yine ekip tarafından temizleniyor ve bu taş ev yine ilk hali gibi mal sahibine en kısa zamanda teslim edilecektir.’

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