Murat Çınar is a bilingual journalist. He is living in Italy since 2001. He grew up among Jewish and Armenian neighbourhoods in Istanbul, just a few steps away from Taksim Pera. After a short education in International Finance, he landed to Italy. Rescuing himself from the finance sector, Çınar first settled to Siena and then moved to Torino in order to get journalism education, just to find himself in Dams (discipline della arti, della musica e dello spettacolo / fine arts, music and entertainment sciences).
He is still and constantly working as a journalist, but in time video, video editing, photography and web marketing came to the forefront. He is writing to platforms and journals such as KaosGL, BirGün, Bianet, Sol and Sendika. He also created and managed a radio program transmitted in Karşı Radyo and a TV-web-show during the OccupyGezi movement, in ÇapulTV. He is one of the founders of Glob011 and he still writes to BabelMed, Manifesto, E-il mensile, Prospettive and Pressenza in Italy.
His main working area is civil rights, migration in Italy, Middle East international policies, politics without violence and movements that are anti-violent, anti-discriminative and anti-militarist. Until now he has written two books to be published in Italy: Una guida per comprendere la storia contemporonea della Turchia and Perché in Turchia non può esistere una stampa libera? As can be understood from the book titles, the book are centered around two of his main research interests, Turkish political history and freedom of media in Turkey.
I am sure if I write more about my dear friend Murat, I can write so much that there will be no space left for an interview about the Divine Queer Festival he organized. So, let’s talk with Murat and his Divine Queer Film Festival.
The third of the Divine Queer Film Festival, aka DQFF, took place in Laboratoi di Barriera in Torino between 10-12 November 2017. DQFF focuses on gender issues, different abilities and capabilities and migration, all of which are in constant change and transformation. DQFF, in collaboration with Taksim Cultural Association, brings together 21 films from 12 countries. It is possible to reach the program and all other details from either the web site or the facebook page of the festival.
I leave the stage to Murat…
I wanted to talk about you first. I know you, but you are better at articulating what you do. You are living in Italy since 2001 and working as a journalist with a main focus on civil rights and immigration, and that is what is written in your website. But how do you define yourself?
I am a person to survive as a journalist. I do this job using my bilingual skills, and sometimes English works for me too. I work freelance in national and local TVs, radios, journals and newspapers. In the last years I started working for a wire service called Pressenza and for a monitoring center called Caffe’dei Gornalisti, on freedom of media.
And your books? Do you have any plans of translating them into Italian? I am sure we can manage it together!
I am telling in my books what is not known here but already known in Turkey. I combine things that are not talked about for various reasons in Turkey, thus trying to show people what lies beyond the daily news they hear. For this very reason, what we need in Turkey is not a translation of my works but an environment that is much more free.
Can you tell us about the process starting from the foundation of Taksim Cultural Association in 2009 until today? What did Taksim Association do and why, for a time, remained inactive?
In 2009, with a couple of friends, we decided to conduct the Italy version of the Worker’s Film Festival. We managed to do it for two consecutive years, but then the association just stopped doing anything. On 2014 with Achille and Sandeh, we decided to organize the Divine Queer Film Festival. And today, we are celebrating the third year.
So in 2011, the association stopped working?
Yes, because we were a group who worked very fast, who had other jobs to do and most of all, who did not know anything about how this works, and I think all of these caused the energy to fade away. And some of us migrated or had children…
What projects did you do with Pink Life?
Achille, Roque and I took Sandeh’s film to Ankara in 2014. In a panel about the sex workers, his film was shown. I met Pink Life there. Their president Buse Janset came to DQFF two times afterwards and once for Trans Freedom March. In 2014, she became a member of Torino Pink Life.
I would like to talk more about the central theme, background and the idea behind the festival, because it is both an interesting combination, and also has a side that is different from other LGBTI+ and Queer festivals. So first of all, I want to ask, who is Mario Mieli and why is this festival dedicated to him?
Mario Milei is maybe the first person to talk about queer theory in Italy. With his book written almost fifty years ago, he criticized gays and lesbians in their view of trans individuals. He is certainly an individual who gave a lot of thought on and produced a lot about physical and mental borders. We can define him as the founder of the FUORI collective, and also as the person who made LGBT movement in Italy a political one. We loved him a lot.
I understand the Queer of the Divine Queer Festival, but can you explain more what Divine stands for?
We were thinking about organising a queer fest that is different from what everyone is used to. We wanted to do something against racism, discrimination, physical and mental barriers, but also spreads positive practices instead of negative experiences. There are lots of depressing LGBT films, and most of the LGBT festivals tries to put in our minds that human rights are different for LGBT individuals. And there are many immigrant LGBT individuals, as an example. We wanted to go against this, and our queer opinion is to include everyone. For this very reason, we define ourselves as divine.
Divine means sacred in a sense. By using this word, you are declaring anti-racist stances as sacred, no? But what do you think about the link between the sacred and human rights, the mystical and the truth? Don’t you see any problems linking these two? Let me put this another way. A high percentage of fascism and conservatism bases on a space that is outside sciences, on belief, social rules and expectancies; they put these values in their centre. So, doesn’t it mean methodologically partnering with conservatism by declaring anti-racism as sacred?
It depends on what mystics you are talking about. If we are talking about beliefs that doctrinate violence and discrimination, we have already seen that they are harmful, and in history they always created their earthly representatives, and some people drew inspiration from those people. Our divine is rather a divine as defined in Hinduism or Taoism. That is to say, we are talking about a divinity in which people did not mind the gender differences as hundreds of years ago, in which still today people manage to live without racism, discrimination and gender-superiority. Thus, one of the movies we brought to the festival, which won an award, The Thinking Body summarizes this vision at its best.
In this context, lets go back to Divine and Queer ideas. How did you combine Queer with the main theme of the festival, immigration and disabilities?
In the mystical cultures that we got our inspirations from, individuals’ behaviours and the bond between their souls are not the same as we know it in the west. Individuals are valued from a completely different perspective and it is in the teaching that one must love the world and the universe without isolating it from the substantial conditions it is in. Of course barriers exist in our daily/earthly lives both physically and mentally, but beyond those there exists human spirit. When one meets and learns to love the soul, she also gets to know and loves her fears and both the black and the white inside herself. To us being homosexual is being disabled, being heterosexual is being homosexual or being and immigrant is being a local. From this point of view, being able to read things based on equality and mutual understanding is crucial to provide peaceful communication. Through these, our queer vision emerged.
Can you explain a little the situation that the disadvantaged groups are in in Italy? For example as far as I know, the hierarchies and power relations within the internal structures of LGBTI+ and queer groups are different from Turkey.
Of course we are again talking about a hetero-cis male and religious society. This society’s past and present is completely based on consumption and hierarchy. Here, keeping coherency and loyalty constant is very important for the rulers, and the people who are far away from aristocracy and bourgeoisie, who want to be exactly like them. In this system there is no place left for those who interrupt the melody or perforate the big picture. Those who are out of the routine and institutional education are already excluded. It is not very different in Italy too. Mostly we cannot talk about a good life for trans individuals and the immigrants.
There are differences between two countries in regards to LGBT movement’s past and structure. This is a very long discussion. But shortly, we can say that the conditions vary depending on a few crucial rights that are gained.
Turkey is full of those who claim to live by Islamic rules. And Islam is a big part of the group who are conservative, oppressive, exclusive and racist. Can we say the same thing for Catholic environment?
Of course there are communities, websites, radios, TV’s loyal to Catholic Church, who are indeed employing hate speech and who are openly homo/trans-phobic. But generally, compared to Turkey, we can say that the situation is far calmer. These groups that I mentioned are mostly minorities. But we shouldn’t forget that the north and the south of the country are very different in this matter.
The festival ended on 12th November. How did it go? Are there any differences from the first year in regards to participation or excitement?
While in the first year our theatres were serving for 60-80 people in average, we saw that this year this number raised over 250. We have witnessed a lot of interest from the media. Many festivals promoted us to their own audiences and we had the chance to be the first to show many very important and new movies. Music, guests, food, rewards and three days flew like a minute.
What is the difference of this festival from others? Imagine you are trying to convince someone to come to DQFF instead of other Queer festivals. What would you say?
We are trying to explain to people that everyone will be rescued through a transitive and fluent struggle. By interrogating positive facts and realities far away from accustomed patterns and taboos. There are people who struggle and who win. By getting to know them, we feel ourselves as a family and we become stronger. You should come to DQFF to receive a happiness full of belief.
For the Turkish version of the interview, please click here.
For the Italian version of the interview, please click here.