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Turkey's conservatives lash out at actress Merve Dizdar after Cannes win

Angry reactions to actress Merve Dizdar’s acceptance speech at the Cannes film festival may foreshadow more crackdowns on the liberal arts sector as Erdogan and a new conservative parliament takes the reins.
Turkish actress Merve Dizdar poses during a photocall after she won the Best Actress Prize for her part in the film "Kuru Otlar Ustune" (About Dry Grasses) during the closing ceremony of the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 27, 2023.

IZMIR, Turkey — Merve Dizdar, the first Turkish woman to win the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, has caused the latest flare-up between Turkey’s conservative elite and the liberal culture sector, which fears further crackdowns in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s third decade in power. 

Dizdar, an actress with a slight figure and a humorous, asymmetrical face, has become a dual symbol since her emotional acceptance speech at the international film festival on Saturday night, where she paid homage to Turkish women’s never-ending struggle for rights. Her speech immediately trended on Twitter, with her fans lauding her outspoken criticism of Turkey’s deteriorating record on women’s rights, particularly after two parties with arch-conservative views on women received seats in the new parliament elected two weeks ago. The two parties, Huda-Par and New Welfare, want to scrap laws protecting women against domestic violence, arguing that they break down “family unity,” and want LGBT clubs in the country closed down. 

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