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HomeHealthcareSuzy Hansen on Emin Özmen's Images From Turkey’s Convulsive Decade

Suzy Hansen on Emin Özmen’s Images From Turkey’s Convulsive Decade

The Magnum photographer Emin Özmen remembers the day in 1993 when radical Islamists set fireplace to the Madımak Lodge in his hometown of Sivas, Turkey, killing 37 individuals. Intellectuals and artists had gathered there for a competition honoring a Sixteenth-century Alevi poet.

Lots of those that died had been themselves Alevis, members of a Muslim sect that could be a minority in Turkey. In the course of the Nineteen Seventies, right-wing Sunni teams typically fought Alevi leftist teams within the streets. The violence finally subsided, however tensions remained—the horror at Madımak, when Özmen was 8 years previous, was the consequence. It made Özmen need to change into a witness.

Picture of a mourning crowd at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara; a day after a failed coup attempt by the Turkish military.
A mourning crowd on the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, the day after a failed coup try by the Turkish navy by which at the very least 265 individuals died, together with troopers, police, and civilians, July 2016
Picture of Syrian children playing in Istasyon neighbourhood of Mardin.
Syrian youngsters play within the Istasyon neighborhood of Mardin, October 2, 2020.
Picture of protests to support Bogaziçi students who were arrested for displaying a rainbow flag.
Protesters help Bogaziçi college students who had been arrested for displaying a rainbow flag at one other protest, in Istanbul, March 2021.

On Sunday, Could 14, Turkey’s first Alevi candidate for president, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, confronted off in opposition to Turkey’s longtime autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a Sunni Muslim who rose to energy in 2003, 5 years earlier than Özmen grew to become a working photojournalist. Over the course of Özmen’s profession, he has watched and documented as Erdoğan has reworked Turkey from an aspiring democracy right into a polarized autocracy with a failing economic system.

These Turks who’ve suffered from repression, violence, and starvation these previous 20 years believed Kılıçdaroğlu may need an opportunity at profitable this week, regardless of the vociferous opposition to him from Turkey’s right-wing populace, which disdains him as a result of he’s an Alevi liberal and since he’s not Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However neither candidate gained the required 50 p.c of the vote. The election will go to a runoff on Could 28, and Erdoğan nonetheless has an opportunity—many Turks see it as a foregone conclusion—to prevail as president for one more 5 years.

“An entire era and I had been solely going to know this shadow,” Özmen writes in his lovely new guide, Olay. “To develop up regardless of this shadow, to attempt to construct ourselves regardless of this shadow. This shadow remains to be there, twenty years later.”

Left photograph showing a fire seen near a gas station. Right photograph showing the covered bodies of 12 people kept in a slaughterhouse in Sirnak.
Left: A fireplace seen close to a gasoline station in Hasankeyf, 2020. Proper: The our bodies of 12 persons are stored in a slaughterhouse in Sirnak.
Picture of Turkish riot police using tear gas while Syrian Kurds cross the Turkish -  Syrian border.
Turkish riot police use tear gasoline as Syrian Kurds illegally cross the Turkish-Syrian border in Suruc, September 2014.
Picture of a boat full of migrants illuminated by the flashlights of Turkish coast guards in Bodrum, Turkey
A ship filled with migrants is illuminated by the flashlights of Turkish coast guards, who’ve come to rescue them close to the Greek-Turkish border. This small boat’s engine failed, and 7 refugees from Syria, ‎Pakistan, and Afghanistan had been stranded in the midst of the ocean close to Bodrum, 2015.

Özmen sought to seize in his images the sense of fixed terror his era and his individuals have endured, notably previously 10 years. As he writes, many Turks have been silenced underneath Erdoğan, and his photographs, even these of energetic violence, have an eerie quietness to them, as if the quantity has been turned off on a TV. (His work remembers Gilles Peress’s influential Telex Iran.) Özmen makes use of this high quality to evoke what he describes as a way of “powerlessness within the face of a lot injustice and violence.”

The occasions (olay can imply “occasion” or “incident” in Turkish) he depicts are well-known ones: the 2013 Gezi Park protests, by which hundreds of individuals revolted over the development of a mall on one in all Istanbul’s final stretches of inexperienced area; the struggle between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Staff’ Celebration (PKK) within the southeast in 2015; the tried navy coup in opposition to Erdoğan in 2016; the persevering with Syrian-refugee disaster.

A lot of the photographs are black-and-white and with out captions, selections that foster the unusual impact of universality—documenting the tragedies as ones the Turkish individuals skilled collectively, even when they themselves by no means marched within the streets, or ran from bombs, or tried to sneak illegally throughout the Greek border. The occasions are what Turks carry inside them; they’re what their nation has change into. Özmen calls his personal thoughts “the sufferer of a violent wind.”

Left picture showing smoke and tear gas fill the sky as Turkish police and protesters clash near Taksim Square on the first day of the Gezi Park protests. Right: The minaret of a sunken mosque emerges from the reservoir of the Birecik dam.
Left: Smoke and tear gasoline fill the sky as Turkish police and protesters conflict close to Taksim Sq., in Istanbul, on the primary day of the Gezi Park protests, June 2013. Proper: The minaret of a sunken mosque emerges from the reservoir of the Birecik dam, in Gaziantep, 2019.
Picture of people watching the confrontation from a building as protesters clash with Turkish police during the Gezi Park protests.
Folks watch from a constructing as protesters conflict with Turkish police throughout the Gezi Park protests, in Istanbul, June 2013. The civil unrest started in Could 2013, when a sit-in protesting an urban-development plan was violently evicted from the park.
Picture of a women laying down on the ground as police used tear gas to disperse crowd at Taksim square on the first day of Gezi Park protests in 2013.
A girls lies down on the bottom in shock as police use tear gasoline to disperse the gang at Taksim Sq. on the primary day of Gezi Park protests, in Istanbul, Could 2013.
Picture of people gathering to show solidarity with Palestinians after Israel's assault on Palestinian civilians at the Gaza border.
Folks collect in Istanbul to point out solidarity with Palestinians after Israel’s assault on Palestinian civilians on the Gaza border, Could 2018.

Over the course of the last decade that Özmen recorded, Turkey endured a number of pure catastrophes: earthquakes in Van, Elazığ, and Düzce, in addition to raging wildfires within the Aegean area. The federal government’s responses to those occasions struck many Turks as a stunning failure. They had been a harbinger of the nation’s future.

In February, two devastating earthquakes struck southern Turkey in 24 hours, killing at the very least 50,000 and as many as lots of of hundreds, whereas making hundreds of thousands homeless. By now a lot has been written about why the earthquake was so lethal. Erdogan had constructed his authoritarian system on a corrupt development economic system and centralized the state a lot round himself that a lot of its establishments failed to reply to the catastrophe. In some ways, the weeks after the earthquake felt just like the end result of the Turkish individuals’s psychological expertise of the previous 20 years.

Turks weren’t solely grieving or terrorized in February. Many knew that the Twenty first-century dystopian future that haunts our collective desires, whether or not due to local weather change or struggle or authoritarianism, had come for them. 1000’s of individuals, wealthy and poor, lay crushed underneath their very own possessions, and as day turned to nighttime, in rain and snow, lifeless our bodies lay on the street with nobody to bury them; males, girls, and kids cried out from the rubble with nobody to avoid wasting them.

These left alive had been pressured to witness this new world: Their households had been gone, their homes had been gone, meals and water had been gone, the roads had been gone, the airports and ports had been gone, the police had been gone, the hearth division was gone. They now lived in a wasteland, the type we frequently say solely nature is highly effective sufficient to create. However solely man may have created such a magnificently rigged apocalypse, and in 2023, the one hundredth anniversary of the Turkish republic, this act of creation was the work of 1.

Turks at all times remind me that their nation has been round for a very long time. The Erdoğan period has lasted solely 20 years, and even this strongman couldn’t crush the Turkish individuals’s historical past—that enduring, democratic want to stay and love that Özmen portrays so heartbreakingly in his photographs.

Left photograph showing a religious frame with the inscription “God” on the wall of a house in Hasankeyf. Right photograph showing civilians hang a white flag on their house to show they are unarmed in Nusaybin, Turkey. Right photograph
Left: A spiritual body with the inscription “God” stays on the damaged wall of a home in Hasankeyf, an deserted historic city in Batman that was engulfed just a few months later by the Ilisu Dam challenge, in 2020. Proper: In January 2016, civilians in Nusaybin grasp a white flag on their home to point out that they’re unarmed. Since October 2, 2015, Turkish authorities have imposed seven very strict curfews on this Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey.
Picture of people removing the bodies of their loved ones and relatives from the village cemetary as water levels rise at Ilisu Dam reservoir lake in Sirnak, Turkey.
Folks take away the our bodies of their family members and relations from the village cemetery after a authorities hydroelectric challenge causes water ranges to rise within the Ilisu Dam reservoir lake, in Sirnak, September 2019.
Picture of people fleeing in shock, flee from homes as mortars continue landing in several locations in Akcakale, Turkey.
Folks in shock flee their properties Akcakale throughout combating between the Turkish navy and Kurdish PYD rebels the day after Turkey launched its navy operation in northern Syria, 2019.
Picture of a a fire raging on in Dalaman, Turkey over a village near the airport.
A fireplace rages in Dalaman over a village close to the airport, August 2021. In July and August 2021, 299 forest fires ravaged the Mediterranean area of Turkey within the worst-ever wildfire season within the nation’s historical past.

One month after the earthquake, I used to be consuming dinner on the terrace of my lodge in İskenderun, the place a bunch of women and men sat at a close-by desk consuming and smoking. A automotive pulled up and a girl obtained out, screaming, and a blond lady from the desk ran to assist her sit down.

“How may I not have identified they had been lifeless!” she cried. “I simply noticed on Fb … How may I not have identified!”

They consoled her. She stored crying. They tried sterner phrases.

“Sister, settle down,” one man mentioned. “Now we have to be robust. Look, I’ve buried 40 associates.”

They had been stealing sips from a bottle of spirits underneath the desk, ordering extra wine. The lady was nonetheless weeping. The blond lady spoke to her once more with a transparent voice.

“Sister, God is testing us,” she mentioned. “Have a look at her.” She nodded at one other lady throughout the desk, who bowed her head. “Her buddy is within the hospital. After they discovered her youngsters within the rubble, they had been hugging.”



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