A painting on a wall in the Norwegian capital Oslo featuring a quote by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and female Kurdish militants has angered Turkey.
The artwork by Kurdish artist Gelawesh Waledkhani was condemned by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, which said that it “serves as a propaganda” for the PKK. Norwegian authorities have defended the painting as freedom of expression.
The painting has been displayed on a wall in Oslo since November. The quote from Öcalan reads, “A society can never be free without women's liberation."
Turkey called for the painting to be removed. “A painting that is supposedly related to ‘women’s rights’ but serves as propaganda of PKK/PYD/YPG terrorist organization was allowed to be displayed in public open space as part of an activity sponsored by the Municipality of Oslo,” read the foreign ministry statement, using the abbreviations of Democratic Union Party and People's Protection Units.
Ankara deems the PYD and the YPG as terrorist organizations due to them being the Syrian affiliates of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the U.S. and the EU.
“This terrorist propaganda should be stopped immediately. We would like to remind those who tolerate terrorism that they, too, could be hit one day by this scourge,” added the Turkish statement.
Eivor Evenrud, head of Oslo city’s council for cultural affairs, replied on Twitter, saying the painting will not be removed.
“Hello Turkey! In Norway we believe in the freedom of speech and democracy. Politicians can not- and will not- change or remove a painting. Watch and learn,” she said.
Hello Turkey!— Eivor Evenrud (@EivorEvenrud) January 15, 2021
In Norway we believe in the freedom of speech and democracy. Politicians can not- and will not- change or remove a painting. Watch and learn.
Greetings from the standing commitee for cultural affairs, Oslo, Norway. https://t.co/bWCpCdOa87
Oslo municipality has received more than 80 complaints and demands to remove the painting, in addition to opposition from Hatice Luk, leader of Turkish Association’s Main Organization. The organization has collected at least 300 signatures calling for the artwork to be taken down. This is enough for the city council to consider the case, reported Dagbladet news outlet.
However, nationwide support may allow the Kurdish artist to keep her painting on the public wall.
Norwegian Visual Artists (NBK), Young Artists’ Society (UKS), and Tegnerforbundet are among Norwegian institutions that have expressed their support for Waledkhani, Rudaw reported.
Waledkhani told Dagbladet earlier this month that her work promotes women’s struggle in general, not just that of Kurdish militants. She also said she has not personally received any threats related to the piece.
Omar Samy Gamal, head of Oslo City Council for Culture, told the same news outlet that he understands the painting could provoke Turkey but said Oslo is a “room for everyone.”