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Turkey bans Kurdish-language play from Istanbul theatre, organisers say

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Actress Ruges Kirici speaks to media in front of Istanbul metropolitan municipality theatre building.
Actress Ruges Kirici speaks to media in front of Istanbul metropolitan municipality theatre building.   -   Copyright  OZAN KOSE / AFP
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Turkish authorities have banned a Kurdish-language play from a municipal theatre in Istanbul, according to organisers.

"Beru", a Kurdish translation of the play "Horn and Trumpets... and Petarades" by famous Italian writer Dario Fo, was included in the Istanbul Municipal Theatre's October programme.

But the play was reportedly removed from the schedule on Tuesday. It would have marked the first time "Beru" had been staged in the country in Turkey's modern history.

"We were on stage, ready and waiting for the spectators when the decision to ban the play was issued by the sub-prefecture," actress Ruges Kirici told AFP.

The use of the Kurdish language in the public space has been banned for many years in Turkey, but was partially authorised in the 1990s and has been used more widely since.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had widened the scope for the language when he served as prime minister between 2002 and 2014.

In 2015, Turkey abandoned attempts at a peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has engaged in guerrilla conflict with the Turkish government for more than 30 years.

The Turkish authorities denied the ban on the Kurdish language, justifying their decision to ban the as a move to prevent "PKK propaganda".

"Theatre in Kurdish is of course allowed. But a play containing PKK propaganda cannot be tolerated," said Ismail Catakli, spokesman for the interior ministry, without giving further details.

"We did not expect such a ban," said actor Omer Sahin.

"There were similar cases in the 1990s, but we thought it was outdated".

It is a shame for this country," added Kirici.

"Why would performing this play in Kurdish be a threat to public order? We were going to laugh together at a comedy, even that was not tolerated," she added.

Dario Fo's play has previously been translated into several languages and performed in many countries across the globe.

Created in 1914, the Istanbul Municipal Theatre had planned to host "Beru", directed by the independent company Teatra Jiyana Nu (Theatre of New Life) for the first time on Tuesday in the district of Gaziosmanpasa.