‘Ucube’ Decapitated In Kars: ‘Monument To Humanity’ Demolition Under

By: Nanore Barsoumian

Wed, May 11 2011

The Monument to Humanity’s two-stone figures were effectively
decapitated after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared
the structure a “freak” (ucube, in Turkish) during a January visit
to Kars.

The Monument to Humanity’s two-stone figures were effectively

According to its sculptor, Mehmet Aksoy, he created the monument
to acknowledge the pain rooted in the division between Turkey and
Armenia, and to promote peace, brotherhood, and rapprochement between
the two countries.

The two figures-meant to be one-stood face-to-face, with one extending
a hand to the other.

The demolition began on April 26-though it had been scheduled for
the 25th, while Armenians worldwide commemorated the anniversary of
the Armenian Genocide.

In the presence of riot police, the heads of the statues were
dismounted and trucked away.

Thus, a conciliatory symbol has itself become a target of intolerance-a
fate Aksoy has likened to the destruction of Buddhist relics by
the Taliban.

Chasing ‘ucube’ out of town

Meanwhile, in Eskisehir’s Tepebasi municipality, dozens of artists
contributed their art to an exhibition titled “Ucube-Ebucu,” which
opened on April 9. (“ebucu” is ucube read backward.) At the opening
were Aksoy, Kars Mayor Ahmet Atac from the Republican People’s Party
(CHP), and former Culture Minister Ercan Karakas. The exhibition
featured works that caused a stir in conservative segments. Its
organizers were forced to terminate the exhibit earlier than planned,
after some of the works, like a painting by Menekse Samanci, were
deemed offensive for “insulting religious values.”

In the painting, Samanci depicts a mosque, its minarets replaced by the
figures comprising the Monument to Humanity. Between the two figures,
and over the dome of the mosque, the artist has drawn three strings
holding up lights that spell “UCUBE.” According to news reports,
Samanci argued her work was a criticism of those who used religion
to suit their agendas, rather than an attack on Islam. Two paintings,
including Samanci’s, are now subject to an investigation by Eskisehir
prosecutor Erdogan Yildirim.

The mosque in Samanci’s painting is the Suleymaniye Mosque, whose
architect Mimar Sinan (1490-1588) is believed to be an Armenian (or
Greek, by some accounts). The replacement of the minarets with the
two figures may be interpreted as a powerful statement on the use of
religious rhetoric as either a unifying force or a destructive weapon.

The last days of ‘Ucube’

In a Jan. 8 visit to Kars, Erdogan fueled a debate on the future
of the monument when he declared it a “freak” and “abomination,”
and called for its demolition and replacement with “a beautiful park.”

The painting by Menekse Samanci.

“They have placed an abomination next to the Mausoleum of Hasan
Harakani. They erected a strange thing,” the prime minister was quoted
as saying.

Authorities also claimed the statue lacked a zoning permit, and that
it stood on a historic 16th-century military site.

In late January, the Kars Municipal Assembly decided to demolish
the monument.

A week before the demolition was to begin, Bedri Baykam, a Turkish
artist, and his assistant, Tugba Kurtulmus, were stabbed in the abdomen
following a meeting where Baykam called for a march and protest on
April 23.

Kars’s former mayor, Naif Alibeyoglu, a man who actively sought to
improve ties with neighboring Armenia, commissioned the work in 2006,
and almost immediately faced a backlash.

Observers have noted that the large percentage of ethnic Azeris in
the city opposed the construction of the statue, which may have played
a part in sealing its fate.


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