The festival is a means of bringing people together.

Cihan Basakcioglu

IZMIR – The 2nd Izmir International Refugee Film Festival organized by the People’s Bridge Association has started today.

The opening of the festival, which will last until April 16, was attended by academics, representatives of various political parties and non-governmental organizations, as well as human rights defenders.

After the all-day film screening, a cine vision was shot at the opening event about the association’s activities.

In the opening speech after the performance, President of the Peoples’ Bridge Association Nuray Pehlivan said that it was very meaningful to be with the participants in the festival hall after a long preparation process.


Pehlivan explained that since its inception under the chairmanship of Cem Terzi, the People’s Bridge Association has endeavored to touch the difficult lives of refugees in various ways and build a real atmosphere of solidarity.

Pehlivan said that effort continues with tremendous volunteerism and will continue for as long as the association lasts.

“The difficulties that refugees face both in our country and in other countries where they live are getting worse. And each person who embarks on this forced migration journey has a different story. The bridge experience told us these stories the most. As we work to spread public friendship in the fight for human rights, we have always knit these efforts with solidarity. And we looked for ways to include cultural and artistic activities in our solidarity in this fight for rights. Cinema offers us a unique opportunity in this sense, and we see this opportunity as part of our responsibility to create friendship between peoples. And the Refugee Film Festival is a tool for bridging peoples, making these stories visible and bringing people together.”

Nuray Pehlivan, President of the People’s Bridge Association


Explaining that the festival, which they were unable to hold for two years due to the pandemic, Pehlivan was prepared with the efforts of Hearts of the People’s Bridge Association and with strong solidarity, saying, “To the festival staff, Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Goethe Institut , Newspaper Wall and the one who assigned us this room and the French Cultural Center who did not hesitate to offer any kind of support and finally to the directors and film crews who have shared their films with us and will be with us during of the festival,” he said.

Pehlivan welcomed all attendees wishing to be together until the end of the festival and watch the films and chat together.


After Pelivan, the founding president of the People’s Bridge Association, Prof. DR. Cem Terzi, stated that he was very happy to be the founder of such an association and that he had spent the most significant years of his life in this association.

“The people in this association are people who politicize and worldly goodness. They are the people who succeeded in doing this,” said Terzi, adding that they started this club 7 years ago with a handful of people.

Terzi recalled the process at the time and drew attention to the solution process, saying: “If we look at it now, it’s as if we live in another country.”

Terzi said, “It is not easy to make peace between people with wounds,” also addressing CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s rhetoric that “we will be halal.”

Founding President of the People’s Bridge Association Prof. DR. Cem Terzi

Terzi says: “We will say goodbye, but it is very difficult to fill it. Being friends in public is not an easy thing for the sufferers. But we have been working on filling this concept for 7 years. We have defined public friendship as the equal acceptance of different identities. Discard monism, acknowledge differences and be equal and equal.”

“We have not turned our backs on refugees”

They have been on the streets since they were founded as an association, Terzi reminded them that they were confronted with the wave of millions of people migrating after the war in Syria.

Saying that “they have not forgotten that Turkey supported the civil war in Syria,” Terzi also explained that this situation still places great responsibilities on Turkey.

Explaining that refugees are doomed to work like slaves on the city’s back streets as cheap labour, Terzi said: “In this country these people are trying to survive by doing jobs that nobody wants to do. On that day we didn’t turn our backs on any of the refugees who act as an association today. We have cared for and treated the health problems of tens of thousands of refugees. We have conducted thousands of field studies. We have conducted dozens of street protests. We held a symposium. We named our first symposium after Alan Kurdi who hit the beach in Bodrum.”


Referring to the difficulties the refugees faced at the time, Terzi also drew attention to the indifference of the Konak Municipality towards the refugees forced to live on the streets of Basmane, saying:

“There is a so-called social democratic class in this country that gets goosebumps at the mention of Syria. Most notably in İzmir, the CHP base contains a Syrian allergy. We think that this issue will be better understood with the war in Ukraine and the immigration issue. This is not a refugee crisis, this is a historic process that we are going through. Every day a proxy war is declared. They are now fighting the proxy war they fought in Syria, in Ukraine, and giving birth to new refugees. This is the historic crisis of capitalism and imperialism. We’ve been saying since day one that Syrians’ right is to be a refugee. Turkey should give all Syrians the right to be refugees. That is not enough, every Syrian who has been picking tomatoes, working in the mine, going to school in this country for 6 years should be given the right to citizenship.”

Explaining that as an association they define the notion of nation as “all who share a common life”, Terzi also expressed that they called for saving the notion of nation from monism.

“Volkschor” enters the stage

Kadir Efe Oruç, Head of Department of Culture and Arts of Izmir Municipality, stressed that visual arts are an indispensable element for strengthening society, noting the importance of cinema in this field.

Oruç said that one of the most important issues in today’s world is the concept of refugees and drew attention to the awareness that the festival will create and thanked everyone who contributed.

Oruç said: “I greet everyone with respect by saying ‘Days without war and disasters’.

Head of Culture and Arts Department Kadir Efe Oruç

After the speeches, the “People’s Choir” entered the festival stage. The founding president of the association, Prof. DR. Cem Terzi, accompanied the songs, which were sung in many languages, with the folk choir.


On the other hand, the pre-opening of the festival took place last night with the event at Bıçakçı Han in Basmane.

While the exhibition attracted visitors with the works of Syrian refugee painters Rami Elhejali and Watfaa Wahb, the illustrations by Aslı Alpar, who designed the festival posters, were also included in this exhibition.

After the exhibition, Esmeray’s one-man show Stories from Shortcuts hit the audience.

The program of the festival can be found at:

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