The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the colours of the Turkish flag from 6 to 11 October 2009. It seems odd - until you tremember that the nine-month 'saison de la Turquie en France' - Turkish cultural season in France - was launched on 1 July.
'The media is responsible for the lack of information about this country'
Stanislas Pierret, the French organiser of the event, is convinced that it is a 'great opportunity for both countries to eliminate mutual prejudice and to stop viewing Turkey only from the orientalist perspective. The media is responsible for the lack of information about this country. Both Turkish geography and culture are very rich. Given the problems concerning the minorities and the secularity, we would like to sketch a trustworthy portrait of this multicultural country.' Around 400 activities promote Turkish culture in the main French cities, and their scope varies from theatre, dance, photography, literature, music and architecture, to cuisine and sport.
Tense relations with Sarkozy
The issue of Turkey entering the European union is being discussed by everyone at the moment. Photographer Attila Durak, whose photos are currently being exhibited in Bordeaux (Gironde), visited the four corners of Turkey while preparing his feature in order to be able to present the 44 ethnic, linguistic and religious groups that live in this country. 'Not accepting Turkey into the EU is tantamount to rejecting all these groups,' he states without hesitation at the opening of the exposition. 'It is preventing Armenians, Kurds and Circassians from forming a part of it.' On 6 October Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of the French capital, handed the Grande Médaille de Vermeil ('the grand medal of the city of Paris') to photographer Ara Güler, writer Orhan Pamuk (Nobel prize winner for literature in 2006) and director Nuri Bilge, stressing the importance of Turkey for the democratic Europe and highlighting the significance of its culture and civilisation.
This cultural season in France constitutes a very ambitious project for Turkey, which has never been involved in such a grand-scale programme abroad. In 2006, Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer and French counterpart Jacques Chirac jointly decided on a budget of 23 million euros. Nonetheless, Turkish-French relations have become tense since 2007 and all the plans seemed to have fallen through. In 2009 Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to cancel the whole project. 'Sooner or later, (French president Nicolas) Sarkozy is going to regret what he has done. We always had a good relationship with the previous president (Jacques Chirac), and he has never demonstrated such an attitude,' a deeply offended Erdoğan stated according to the French daily Le Monde, as a result of the anti-Turkish EU membership campaign which ran in France prior to the European elections. Similarly, the Paris Book Fair (Salon du Livre de Paris) programme, which was supposed to be dedicated to Turkey in 2010, was finally changed. Its organisers prefer not to touch upon risky subjects and decided not to honour any country...
Check out the programme here
Explore in Paris:
Le Café turc in the Tuileries Gardens, with concerts and workshops
Exhibitions: 'De Byzance à Istanbul: un port pour deux continents' () at the Grand Palais until 25 January
'A la cour du Sultan: Caftans du Palais de Topkapı' at the Louvre until 18 January