Turkish painter Bedri Baykam stabbed in Istanbul

Prominent Turkish artist and painter, Bedri Baykam, and his assistant were stabbed in Istanbul on Monday as they were leaving a meeting planning a protest aimed at saving a controversial monument.

The giant ”Monument to Humanity” in Kars, the easternmost city in Turkey and on the border to Armenia, became a symbol of controversy after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described it as “monstrous”, prompting actions to have it removed. The Kars municipality had earlier decided to demolish the statue. News reports say they will this week put up scaffolding around the 35-meter monument to take it apart piece by piece.

Earlier during the  meeting in the cultural center, Baykam criticised against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for calling the monument “monstrous”.

Local television channels showed the injured artist walking around frantically and pleading for help before a woman hailed a taxi that took him to a hospital. His assistant, Tugba Kurtulus, was seen lying on the ground next to that scene, surrounded by people trying to help her.

Both Bedri Baykam’s and his assistent’s conditions are reported to be not serious.

The unidentified stabber, reportedly fleeing the scene in a car. Police were investigating whether the attack was linked to the controversy surrounding the monument.

Baykam is a popular figure in Turkey not only for his eccentric art but also his political view and activism as an distinct follower of Turkey’s secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and a vocal critic of the Islamist-rooted government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Artists such as Baykam are planning a protest march Saturday in defense of the unfinished monument, which features a divided human figure, with one half extending a hand to the other half.

“We are here to prevent something like a murder,” stated Baykam in the meeting earlier. “We are here to prevent an artistic massacre.”

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