art of resistance, Turkey

Playlist: Aynur Doğan.

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Aynur (Doğan) is a Kurdish singer from Turkey. She was born in Çemişgezek, a small mountain town in Dersim Province and fled to İstanbul in the 90’s.

Her album Keçe Kurdan (released in 2004) was banned by the provincial court in Diyarbakır on the grounds that the lyrics contained propaganda for an illegal organization (the court ruling said the album “incites women to take to the hills and promotes division”). The ban was later lifted.

You can listen to the beautiful song Dar Hejiroke (from the above mentioned album), here.

Previous Playlist:

Hello Pshychaleppo

Grup Bunalim

I Was Born For Poetry (Adonis)

The Partisan

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art of resistance, Turkey

Playlist: Grup Bunalim.

anatali/illustration: Emre Önol/

Anatolian Rock Revival Project is a project dedicated to bringing the non-mainstream pieces from the Turkish rock history (60s&70s) into light with unique art works.

The following is a song from the 1970, by the band Grup Bunalim, called Taş Var Köpek Yok. Enjoy the song and be sure to check out the rest of the songs included in the Anatolian Rock Revival Project.

You can listen to the song here.

Previous Playlist:

I Was Born For Poetry (Adonis)

The Partisan

Rojava Women

The Melody of our Alienation (Yemen)

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Nekategorizirano, Turkey

Turkey’s Jumpers Without Masters.

eva-bee/Ilustration by Eva Bee/

A wonderful story on Mashallah News. A boss-free textile collective rose from the ashes of a failed company where workers were not paid for months.

Following years of struggles with former bosses and co-workers, Özgür Kazova collective strives to create a new and equitable labour model in a country where the word worker is often synonymous with poverty and exploitation.

“Jumpers without masters” is the group’s triumphant slogan. Only three members remain from the initial 94 Kazova workers, many of whom quickly scrambled to find jobs elsewhere after they were laid off. They are few, but retain the satisfaction of getting to use the machines impounded from their old factory, after Özgür Kazova legally acquired the weaving apparatus last year.

The long legal battle, internal strife and heavy costs associated with establishing the new factory only deepened the resolve of the trio to establish a collective-based labour model, one which rests on the pillars of gender equality and mutual solidarity.

Read the full story on Mashallah News.

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art of resistance, Turkey

Playlist: Selda Bağcan.

CSzT-82W4AExzHs-599x330/photo via Gencgazete/

Selda is a legendary Turkish folk singer-songwriter, known in the West for her 70s recordings (her music has been sampled by many artists outside Turkey, including Mos Def and Dr. Dre). She continued a mysterious career in the past decades.

Considering all what’s happening in Turkey right now, a little bit of Selda music is very much welcome. So I decided to dig up this happy story…

After weeks of negotiations, couple of years ago Selda was convinced to play live and solo for the first time in ten years. It’s all captured in this lovely video, filmed by Vincent Moon. Here’s this little wander on the magnificent Bodrum Peninsula.

Previous Playlist:

Saul Williams

Farida Muhammad Ali.

Nakba Day

Ghalia Benali

Alsarah & The Nubatones

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art of resistance, Turkey

The Last Dance of Tarlabasi.

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This week, Istanbul on my mind. So much change in the last couple of years. In Istanbul, in Turkey, in countries around Turkey. A terrifying game of dominos, it seems.

I thought about Rena Effendi’s work The Last Dance of Tarlabasidone in 2011. It makes me nostalgic because that is when and where I first time fell in love with Istanbul.  With Effendi’s great work, Tarlabasi and its magic remain captured in time.

In spite of its run-down looks and reputation for widespread crime, Tarlabasi was a culturally vibrant neighborhood kaleidoscope – populated by Kurdish migrant workers from Anatolia, Roma gypsies, Greeks and African immigrants – from devout Muslims to trans-gender sex workers.

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But a big change happened – in 2011, Beyoglu municipality began a series of forced evictions – following the government’s plan for city “beautification”. Effendi described how as a result of this urban development initiative, many of the current Tarlabasi residents were being “bought out” and ordered to leave, as their homes are demolished to accommodate the construction of upscale residences.

Entire building blocks in Tarlabasi have been sold off to private companies, transforming the streets into ghostly barracks, pending reconstruction. Many of the neighborhood’s residents, their faces and lifestyles did not fit in with the new, “modern”, mandated look of Tarlabasi.

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Last Dance of Tarlabasi is a visual tale of this neighborhood and the way it struggled to survive the ruthless pace of Istanbul’s urban change.

All of this is captured very well in a sentence told by Ali Ber, a 45-year-old Kurdish migrant from Mardin. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years; all my children grew up here. Why should I leave? If they want to make Tarlabasi better, why can’t I be part of it?”, Ber asked.

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How is the story of Tarlabasi revelant today, five years later? How is it relevant after the recent terrorist attacks in Instabul?

It is relevant because it shows what today’s world values, what capitalism values. Most of the people are getting eaten by the machine of capitalism, we are being crushed and squeezed, with very little place to breathe, to live decent lives.

We live in a time of crisis that cannot be fixed within the capitalist framework. Creating more and more fear is the method that is being used  – since most of the world’s leaders and politicians don’t seem to care for (long-term) solutions.

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People being pushed out of their homes, people dying in terrorist attacks, people being forced to work for way less than a minimum wage (it is slavery, so call it slavery), people jumping off bridges because they can’t pay the rent, people begging on streets, people selling kidneys to pay for their children’s education, people who dare to cross the sea in boats that look like walnut shells because there’s no safe ground for them, people who still don’t know where their children (their bodies) are because they happened to be at a wrong corner, at a wrong time, with wrong skin on their bodies and wrong language coming out of their mouth, people who live and die each day to see what wars (war on terror, war on drugs, war on war) look like on the ground, in reality – all of these people are the victims, and all of their stories are connected.

We are being forced to see these problems in a deeply fragmented way (which is exactly how the ruling classes of our time want us to see it),  but we need to move beyond fragments and see how things are connected, how we are connected.

And when you think about things that way, it is easy to realize that we are all (well, 99 percent of us at least) dancing the last dance of Tarlabasi.

//all photos © Rena Effendi//

For more on Effendi and her work, go to her official website.

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art of resistance, Turkey

Five For Friday: Ten Years In Turkish Cinema.

winter sleep3/photo: Winter Sleep snapshot/

If I write that Turkish cinema is on the rise, that it is original and compelling, often beautiful and poetic – I wouldn’t be saying anything new. The truth is already out there.

Still, I felt the need to write about a couple of really great Turkish films made during the last ten years (2006 – 2016). These films are maybe not the most famous ones, and maybe not even the best ones – but I think they show diversity, originality, and each one of them is a special experience, rich in layers and nuanced.

Also, I noticed that Five For Friday category has been neglected for last couple of months – I am sorry about that and will do my best to bring a little something different to Fridays more often. It’s Friday, I am in love kind of a thingbut Middle East Revised way.

1. Sonbahar (2008)

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Sonbahar (Autumn) could easily be one of my favourite films of all time. If favourite means films that stay with you, somewhere inside, films you can watch many times and still enjoy every little detail, films you remember and connect with your everyday life many years later – then Sonbahar is one of my favourite films.

It is a story about a man who struggles after his release from ten years as a political prisoner (story painfully familiar to many people in Turkey).

Sonbahar is Özcan Alper’s debut film, full of meaningful silence, obervations on life and change. It takes you inside the soul and mind of the prisoner (Yusuf) – where his troubles hide, where sorrow finds its nest, where disappointment and doubts have permanent residence.

And all of that happnes in the beautiful snowy mountains of northern Turkey, or by the raging sea. Memory confronts reality the same way waves hit the shore relentlessly. Yusuf meets his old mother, his childhood friend, and a new girl – who shares his solitude.

Slowly, he grasps the impact his ten years in prison had on his mother, he sees the way his friend’s life changed, and finds comfort (atleast for a while) in the arms of the girl who understands him without talking.

The movie is not slow, it has perfect pace for all of those who want to really get into the story, who wish to feel what Yusuf feels, who want to take it one step at a time. For it is a big story, it is one’s life.

Onur Saylak and Nino Lejava’s performances as disillusioned individuals embittered with life are beyond great – they make you believe and let under their skin.

I will not write more – I will leave it to you to discover all the beauty of Sonbahar, to explore it in your own way. Just one more thing – an amazing song from the film, which needs to be shared here.

2. Takva (2006)

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Takva (A Man’s Fear of God) is something very different from Sonbahar. It is a story about a humble and introvert Muharrem who lives in a solitary and meager existence of a prayer and sexual abstinence adhering strictly to the most severe Islamic doctrines.

His devotion attracts the attention of the leader of a rich and powerful Istanbul religious group and he offers him an administrative post as a rent collector for their numerous properties.

Muharrem’s new job throws him into the modern outside world he has successfully avoided for so long. He used to live without deep thoughts about practical life and religion, and it all changes. That’s when the doubt starts playing an important role in his life. And religious fanatics – well, they don’t appreciate doubt very much.

Muharrem notices that he himself has become proud, domineering and dishonest. And he has a special new peoblem – a tormenting image of seductive woman who tempts him in his dreams. With the balance of his devotion now upset, his fear of God begins to eat away at his senses.

The plot for this lovely film is based on an old folk tale from Turkey about a man who refuses to marry the daughter of his spiritual master although he clearly loves her. In Onder Cakar and Omer Kiziltan’s adaptation, it exposes the inner mechanisms of puritan and extreme religious orders and throws light on the mental set-up of its loyal members.

There’s so much great irony in this film, do watch it.

3. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (2011)

Once-Upon-a-Time-in-Anatolia-2011

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the most famous Turkish directors, earning praise wherever he goes and whatever he does. All of that is, of course, with a good reason – his immense talent.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a story about a group of men who set out in search of a dead body in the Anatolian steppes (yes, there’s some amazing scenery in this film).

A local prosecutor, police commissar, and a doctor lead the search for a victim of a murder to whom a suspect named Kenan and his mentally challenged brother confessed. The search is proves to be more difficult than expected as Kenan is fuzzy and can’t remember the body’s exact location.

We spend the whole night with the group searching for the body. The film really feels like that – like you’re out there with them – you feel the boredom, exhaustion, anger, all of it. The film is long, it provides enough space to feel all of that.

You pass throught the beautiful countryside, and enjoy small frames and moments that wonderfully shed light on the different characters. It shows how a simple task can get complicated, it show how much can fit in just one moment, in one night.

It allows the viewers to see the details, to dig below the surface of events and characters. There’s just so much of life in it – in its honesty, in the reality of it. It’s bold and it’s a lot (it’s definitely not escape cinema), but I think we can take it – and love it.

4. Times And Winds (2006)

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Well, it’s called Times and Winds. It sounded promising right away. I grew up in a small village, and this film just hits home for me. In the film, it’s all about this small, poor village, leaning over high rocky mountains, facing the immense sea, flanked by olive yards.

It’s about they way life is made there – and how it is different in so many ways. Villagers are simple people who struggle to cope with a harsh nature. They earn their living, on a daily survival basis, out of the earth and of a few animals they feed.

Just like the animals and trees around them, they have the knowledge of their temporary existence – they feel the present in a way physicists could never understand. They are the ones who know what it means – it’s their time mode.

Villagers live according to the rhythm of the earth, air and water, day and night and seasons. The daily time is divided into five parts by the sound of the call to prayer (Night, Evening, Afternoon, Noon and Morning).

Children study in the village school consisting of only one classroom. Families show their gratitude to the young teacher by giving her presents – the bread they cook themselves, the milk of their own sheep.

It’s the way my grandma used to do it (and still does it)  – wine for the teacher, eggs for the doctor. You give what you have, you give what you make.

Children grow up slowly in the village, you can feel it. We can feel their stories, their little torments – being in love with the teacher, being angry at your parents, discovering secrets of the adult life. Omer, Yakup and Yildiz are on the path of discovery, on their way to greater responsibility, transcending from childhood to an entirely new world.

They yearn for an escape, and gather in the wilderness around the village to  play and dream. Images show the young children lying prone – dead or asleep – out in the wilderness.

As one viewer observed – it might be a sad reflection of a world where they already feel like a disappointment. But, I would add, it might also be what saves them in the end.

Also – Arvo Part’s music just makes it perfect, it completes the circle.

5. Winter Sleep (2014)

winter sleep

Another slow, life-contemplating film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel (named Othello) in central Anatolia (again, amazing scenery) with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce.

Snow everywhere and love (and ego) will tear us apart – kind of times. As the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities. So, in a way, it is a shelter turned into a battlefield.  It also goes to show that there’s no shelter from ourselves.

Aydin apparently enjoys a prosperous life, but that is just the surface – his world is one where people talk a lot but say very little, where people make up and cover up with words the lack of action and emotion. Ceylan shows how his protagonists substitute talk for action.

There is lots of dialogue in this film, unlike most of the other films on this list, but all the talk in it shows how talking can be empty, how it can be means of self deception, an ego trip, a false charade.

The film deals with the universal human experience, and puts it into a kind of a moralistic tale (but not a preaching one). It just opens many philosophical discussions, but discussions we can all partake in. It makes us relate, rethink, and feel – over and over again.

This is a film I plan on watching again in the future – as I (hopefully) get older and my experiences in life change – I want to see how my perception of the film (and life) will change, what will I understand better, what rewards this film still has to give me.

Winter Sleep just might make you more awake than ever. Watch it.

• • •

Previous Five For Friday:

90’s Iranian Cinema

Postcards From Syrian Refugees

Costs of War

Conversations With History

Iraq War Documentaries

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art of resistance, Turkey

The Gold Rivers Of Tigris And Euphrates.

Women are standing on top of the dam construction site and city of New Ilisu where construction are being built and resort hotel for the hot springs. Turkey

/Women are standing on top of the dam construction site and city of New Ilisu where construction are being built and resort hotel for the hot springs. image © Mathias Depardon/

Mathias Depardon is a documentary photographer based in Istanbul. One of his important and still very relevant projects is Gold RiversIn Gold Rivers, Depardon presents the story of Hasankeyf, a village located in the province of Batman in Southeast Turkey.

It is an ancient town and district alongside the Tigris river, and the only place in the world that gathers nine of the ten criteria to be considered worldwide heritage by the UNESCO.

A herd of cattle are walking back towards the village by the banks of the Tigris river. The river is predominant in the life of the inhabitants of the region of Hasankeyf. The Ilisu Dam project due in 2015 will flood 80% of the ancient monuments of Hasankeyf along with 52 other villages and 15 small towns by the year 2016 destroying a unique historical site where a mix of Assyrians, Roman and Ottoman monuments belong. The Turkish government maintains contrariwise that it will bring means in the poor region to develop its economy, notably by allowing the creation of 10,000 jobs, the development of an activity of peach and the irrigation of the agrarian lands. Kesmeköprü, Turkey

/A herd of cattle are walking back towards the village by the banks of the Tigris river. The river is predominant in the life of the inhabitants of the region of Hasankeyf/

However the Turkish government has accomplished no efforts these last years to offer its inclusion to the organization or to promote tourism in the region. The key reason for this lack of initiative, as Depardon explains in the project, is that the efforts hired by the state would harm the Ilisu Dam project that is supposed to entirely flood Hasankeyf along with 52 other villages and 15 small towns until the end of 2016.

Construction of the dam began in 2006 and is expected to be finished this year. The dam has drawn international controversy, because it will flood portions of Hasankeyf and necessitate the relocation of people living in the region.

A tourist boat tour is visiting the former Savaçan Village flooded by the reservoir lake of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates river. Turkey

/A tourist boat tour is visiting the former Savaçan Village flooded by the reservoir lake of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates river/

This hydroelectric dam is part of the GAP (The Anatolia Project of southeast Turkey), which is one of the most important territory planning project in Turkey: it concerns eight provinces and will irrigate 1,7 million dry hectares of earth from 22 dams fed by waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

With all the environmental and social risks, there are additional political risks. The dam was severely criticized in effect by the neighboring countries of Iraq and Syria who accuse Turkey of appropriating waters of two rivers running to the south of their territories, hit by dryness.

The Ilisu dam project due in 2015 will flood 80% of the ancient monuments of Hasankeyf along with 52 other villages and 15 small towns. By 2016, it will destroy 400 kilometers of the Tigris?s ecosystem and force the relocation of about 60,000 persons. Local girls from the village of Hasankeyf are meeting over a çay together. Hasankeyf, Turkey

/The Ilisu dam project will destroy 400 kilometers of the Tigris ecosystem and force the relocation of about 60,000 people. Local girls from the village of Hasankeyf are meeting over a çay together/

“Water levels are at a record low because Turkey is taking more than a fair share”, Shorooq al-Abayachi, deputy head of the Iraqi parliament’s agriculture and water committee, said at the time.

In the absence of definite agreement with Iraq and Syria, the building of Ilisu dam constitutes a violation of international law.

Kids playing in the Devegeçidi reservoir dam. The Dam is one of the 22 dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project of Turkey. It is near Diyarbak?r on a branch of the Tigris river. Turkey

/Kids playing in the Devegeçidi reservoir dam. The Dam is one of the 22 dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project of Turkey/

If it will be finished, the dam will flood 80% of the ancient monuments of Hasankeyf and destroy a unique historical site where a mix of Assyrian, Roman and Ottoman monuments belong.

The Turkish government still sticks to the argument that it will bring means to the poor region – to develop its economy, notably by allowing the creation of 10,000 jobs.

View on the reservoir lake of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates river. As part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, aka GAP, several dams were constructed in the area and surrounding regions as part of a larger agricultural and economic initiative by the Turkish Government. Turkey

/View on the reservoir lake of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates river. As part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, aka GAP, several dams were constructed in the area and surrounding regions as part of a larger agricultural and economic initiative by the Turkish Government/

The construction of the dam is continued in a violent and unsecure environment. Early in 2015, the PKK guerilla (the workers’ party of Kurdistan) destroyed machines and a pipe from the construction site.

The governmental response was an increase of the militarization of the site, adding 600 soldiers to the 1,000 soldiers already located at the site.

Local tourists visiting the village of Halfeti partly flooded by the reservoir lake of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates river.The dam was built on top of the ruins of the ancient city of Zeugma. The inhabitants of Halfeti and Savaçan were displaced to the city of Karaotlak (also called New Halfeti) built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey. Halfeti,Turkey Halfeti, Turkey

/Local tourists visiting the village of Halfeti partly flooded by the reservoir lake of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates river.The dam was built on top of the ruins of the ancient city of Zeugma. The inhabitants of Halfeti and Savaçan were displaced to the city of Karaotlak (also called New Halfeti) built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey/

The intensified opposition to the project by the local population forced the companies to hire non-local workers. On 20th of October last year, a Global Hasankeyf Action Day against the Ilisu Dam was held.

It was also the a beginning of a new campaign that aims to declare Hasankeyf a UNESCO world heritage site, together with the Iraqi marshes.

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Yet the construction of the dam is about to be completed. Civil society and activists worries are very high regarding the threats on peace the dam is going to represent.

Once effective, it will be forcing thousands of Kurdistan villagers to move to the cities while there is a high risk it will provoke water shortages for irrigation in the Iraqi valleys.

p_00062504//all photos © Mathias Depardon//

The result may be a vicious circle where water shortages exacerbate the conflict, in turn blunting resource management.

Conflicts over water have long haunted the Middle East. Yet in the current fighting in Iraq and Syria, the major dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are seen not just as strategic targets but also as powerful weapons of war.

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For more on Mathias Depardon and his photography, visit his official website. To read more about Gold Rivers project, visit The Story Institute. To find out more about Ilisu Dam and the current state of it, visit EJ Atlas.

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