Your political party is polling poorly, and you’re expected to lose votes in the upcoming election. Here’s one way to draw attention to your campaign: nail a political banner with your face on it across a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It worked for Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, seeking reelection in June after taking over for the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to the AFP, the politician had a massive placard tacked across the entire length of the Aqueduct of Valens. Now, instead of admiring the ancient landmark — which was built by the Roman Emperor Valens in 378 CE and once supplied water to all Constantinople — people traveling to the airport now see a beaming Davutoglu next to the words “Together More Powerful” — one of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) slogans.
But, as it turns out, the ensuing attention hasn’t exactly been the kind Davutoglu likely wished for. Turkey’s archaeologists are outraged and have been speaking out against his actions. Last week, members from the Istanbul chapter of the nation’s archaeological association released a trenchant statement condemning the AKP for “[nailing] a giant banner into the 1,637 years old Valens Aqueduct!”
“The banner not only causes physical damage to the structure but also covers up an important part of the city’s cultural heritage and has a negative affect on the perception of cultural assets,” they wrote. “Moreover, it turns the Valens Aqueduct — which is public and has a universal value like all cultural assets — into a propaganda tool.”
The country’s archaeologists already have enough to worry about from ISIS, whos advance threatens cultural heritage sites along the Turkey-Syria border. In February, Turkish soldiers moved the Tomb of Suleyman Shah (grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman empire) — located in Syria in a small Turkish exclave — to keep the militant group from destroying it.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.