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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art of resistance, Turkey

Centenary of the Armenian Genocide: Denying Genocide Means Continuing Genocide.

On 24th of April 1915, Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested and executed, some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The date is held to be the beginning of the Armenian genocide – Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of Armenian people, inside their historic homeland. Starting from today, Middle East Revised marks the centenary of the Armenian genocide until the end of this year – with various reports, books recommendations, articles, testimonials, etc.

This first article is written by Zdravko Budimir, Croatian political scientist who wrote his master thesis on Armenian genocide and knows the subject very well. I am really happy to be able to publish it on Middle East Revised.

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Even though ethnic violence played a large role in history of mankind, there is one distinctive reason why 20th century is considered a dark century. Genocide as a phenomena is a decadency of, not a certain nation, but entire civilization. Violence of the 20th century was prepared. It derived its origins from the imperialistic fashion, where new racist theory justified bloody colonial expansionism and brought in a modern concept of administrative massacres. Genocide is not a single and discrete act but a process. Diagnostically perceived, it is a syndrome developed by simultaneous grouping of various signs and symptoms.

When altogether these symptoms produce abnormal state. Armenian genocide started in April 1915, as an escalation of a prolonged process of ethnic violence towards the Armenian population, started in 19th century. Ethnic violence escalated into a genocide because ethnic violence became a political tool for achieving political goals.

April24Victims/Armenian intellectuals jailed and later executed on April 24th. Image is from the Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia, Yerevan: 1981, p. 423./

Twentieth century introduced new political ideas and redefinition of older political concepts. Historically, democracy stands for a rule of the people, and there are two definitions of the people and one of them is responsible for turning a genocide into a political weapon.

Conception of people as demos is not a problematic one, as it assumes the differences between people can be set out by compromise. On the other hand conception of people as ethnos overrides compromise as a political tool, and defines nation in ethnic terms. Armenian genocide is the first modern genocide because ethnic violence had exceptional political purpose – removal of others in an already ethnically defined territory.

At the turn of the century Armenian question was integral part of a broader Eastern question and secondary stage for confrontation between European powers.  As a political system an empire could no longer cope with its minorities and their rising political and national aspirations.

Armenian_genocide_heads/Caption of the photograph reads: The Above Photograph Shows Eight Armenian Professors Massacred by the Turks. Found on Wikipedia/

Hamidian massacres 1894.-1896. were series of mass murders, led by Sultan Abdul Hamid, the Red Sultan. Violence was focused on Armenian society and estimated number of Armenian casualties vary from 80,000 to 300,000. The massacres themselves were, considering reasons and execution, pre-modern (feudal) type of violence and contain pre-genocidal character.

Hamidian massacres opened up for a further process of violence, thus creating a continuity of violence. During and after the massacres a certain type of culture was welcomed. Crimes were forgotten and it’s perpetuers were unpunished. Armenians turned into a safety valve of the system. Safety valve could be opened and tightened at any given time, without making political or moral risks. Hamidian massacres were crucial moment in incubation phase of genocide because vulnerability of Armenian people was detected and recognised (there was no address for Armenians to appeal to), and combined with Turkish invulnerability within the empire it made genocide a possible option.

In 20th century  Ottoman empire faced crisis caused by territory loss. For the first time in history Turks made a majority within their own empire, an empire which was about to collapse.

Armenian_woman_kneeling_beside_dead_child_in_field/Armenian woman kneeling beside dead child in a field “within sight of help and safety at Aleppo“. Sometime between 1915 and 1919. Photo source: Wikipedia/

Armenians as a minority faced a historically progressive hatred on an ethnic, religious, economic and political level. Armenians were used to violence. World War I provided a safe curtain for the most brutal act of violence in human history because it intensified nationalism, geopolitical destabilization, and made combining ethnos and demos far more dangerous. Context of total war redefined civilians as potential targets and enabled the use of terror as a supression of potentially cooperating parts of society. Armenian society was suspected for cooperation with the enemy and percieved as a direct threat to the Ottoman state in the same manner.

Extermination of the Armenians begun as elitocide, focused on Armenian leaders, soldiers, fortifications, strategically valuable cities and villages. Elitocide was justified as war necessity and preemptive strike, as Armenians were flagged as enemies.  Leaderless Armenian population was helpless, stateless and without any political representation. Genocide was executed using top-down principle, with a developed administrative system used for the coordination of murderings.

Armenian_Orphans,_Merzifon,_1918/Armenian orphans in Merzifon, 1918. Photo by Tsolag Dildilian/

Deportation was introduced as a specific method of genocide  (removal of the others from a heartland) and it was enforced as a law. Deportation and pillage were legal acts and covered for extermination which happened in their sake.

Armenian genocide was perpetuated by Young Turks, a force within a society driven by modern and nationalistic ideal of an ethnically defined nation state.  Young Turks’ desired society was bound by same language, education, religion, moral and aesthetic norms. They aspired towards  the Jacobin model, ruled by centralised state, ruthless homogenizer, egalitarian nationalism within national natural limits. Young Turks’ political rule in war era was an usurpation of a system and radicalization of the political sphere.

Armenian genocide is essentially a modern crime. It was initiated because Young Turks were devoted to the organic nationalism ideology which combined dark side of democracy with dark side of multiethnic empire. Later on, the Turkish nation-state was founded on genocide and it was maintained on its denial. Turkish people as a collective are not responsible for the massacre, but they take their part in culpability by constructing a national myth based on a denial of the other nation.

Armenianmothermourning/An Armenian mother and the corpses of her five children. Photo by Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919, Kharput-Turkey/

Armenian genocide can be described as a successful crime because it fulfilled its given purpose: final goal, the creation of homogeneous state, was accomplished, crime was forgotten and Turkey unpunished. And even one hundred years later, denying the obvious, historically proven and argumented facts is de facto acceptance of their outcome as favorable. Denial of the genocide means prolonging its effects and the Armenian genocidal process now exists for one hundred years.

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art of resistance, travel, Turkey

Ara Güler’s Anatolia.

It is not a secret that I am a big fan of Ara Güler’s photography. I already wrote about him and his wonderful black & white photos of Istanbul. Here are some of Güler’s photos from  Anatolia, less famous but equally wonderful.

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/all photos © Ara Güler/

For Güler’s photographs of archaeological and historical sites in Anatolia, go to Flickr (Güler often said he feels those photos are his greatest contribution to human history).

For more on the photos featured in this post and more on Ara Güler, go to his official website.

 

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art of resistance, Lebanon, Syria, travel, Turkey

Beyond Borders – from Vienna to Beirut.

Frederic Lezmi: Beyond Borders (from Vienna to Beirut)

Artist statement:

I have been searching for the “in between” – whatever lies geographically as well as culturally between my world here in the midst of Europe and my long term focus of interest in the Middle and Near East. Being half Lebanese myself, I have been studying cultural interfaces within the distant Arabic World.

From August to December 2008 I traveled between Vienna and Beirut. I encountered people in versatile worlds, inside or in front of architectural places, both real and artificial, public and private. In my photographs, people emerge either as just passers-by or while waiting, as subjects and objects of the viewer’s eye, moving about in their urban or rural environment. These are distanced views in which locals and tourists are on similar paths, randomly congregating and forming elusive compositions. These pictures represent neither precise documents nor do they create artistic worlds. They are constructions of multicolored, fragmented impressions, like looking through a kaleidoscope.

I often show architectural monuments, including the social life taking place within, in various superimposed layers and conditions. Through reflections and fragmentation within the images, the viewer’s eye is being multiplied, inverted and divided in order to call into question the perception of cultural differences and their importance for the “present” and the “past” of our society.

My pictures reveal an ambivalent point of view beyond current clichés of architectural monuments and existing borderlines. In my photographs, the Orient and the Occident overlay each other, and are further changed by ever-growing globalism. Photography in this case serves as a visual hinge and an interface between these multi-faceted worlds where the space between East and West is either expanded or reduced.

0889f5f39505d2261dbae8fb802d2022-largeZagreb, Croatia

2cfe9cc6d81c608ec1a60a2ca2e98e9e-largeSarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

aqwBucharest, Romania

041a9b3ef2e7c7ec71842d580011bbe8-largeVarna, Bulgaria

4a4af4e25d4137829d4fd868bed784d4-largeIstanbul, Turkey

awxxTasci, Turkey

360ec2d084f58fce0e05bc0e7942d4be-largeIznik Golu, Turkey

a98d35562bf9b142ccdebaa7bdd178ed-largeAleppo, Syria

asdxKfar Khilfah, Syria

4ef885d8b1f5680c776e6559b3992804-largeBeirut, Lebanon

/all photos © Frederic Lezmi/

For more on Lezmi and his projects, visit his official website.

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art of resistance, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Beyond the architectural text (Middle East).

The Damascene House is beyond the architectural text

The design of our homes…

Is based on an emotional foundation

For every house leans … on the hip of another

And every balcony…

Extends its hand to antoher facing it.

Nizar Qabbani

Peter Gould is an Australian artist. In 2002, he began traveling around Middle East and was inspired by cities like Fes, Damascus, Istanbul and Mecca, with his work resulting in a great visual fusion of classical Islamic design elements with his vibrant, fresh graphic styles.

His photography is maybe best described by one of his curators:

Peter’s photography is as much about the spiritual as it is about the visual, offering no questions or answers but rather affording the viewer to simply being in that moment and that moment at first glance seems to curiously exist without time or consequence.”

010-Beirut-2Beirut.

015-MeccaMecca.

025-JerusalemJerusalem.

029-IstanbulIstanbul.

033-DamascusDamascus.

037-MuscatMuscat.

038-MuscatMuscat.

039-NizwaNizwa.

040-NizwaNizwa.

043-AbuDhabiAbu Dhabi.

fesFes.

marrakeshMarrakesh.

/all photos © Peter Gould/

For more on Gould and his work, visit his official website.

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art of resistance, Turkey

Away from Home (Istanbul, Turkey).

Kürşat Bayhan is a Turkish photographer and journalist. His project Away from Home tells the story of desperate migrants from Anatolia, working in Istanbul.  The rate of migration for Istanbul has more than doubled during the 2009-2010 period due to the city’s economic opportunities and income disparities between the country’s west and east, according to official statistics. The migrants are often so isolated and cut off from their families, their homes and their culture. They also live in bad conditions – mostly, they dwell in single room houses with limited supply of electrics and water. Individual rooms of apartment suites are rented on monthly basis. One room is occupied by 10 people at minimum.

Bayhan’s photos show certain longing, nostalgia, maybe best described with the perfect portuguese word – saudade.

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A small street in Eminönü in winter.

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116all images © Kürşat Bayhan

For more on Bayhan and his work, visit his blog, and contact him – kursadbayhan@gmail.com – to order his book Away from Home.

 

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Azerbaijan, Turkey

Pipe Dreams: The oil stories from Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Rena Effendi is a photographer who keeps on bringing great stories for a decade now. In Pipe Dreams, she  followed an oil pipeline from her native Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey. Along the way she met scores of people and unfulfilled dreams. She spent years taking photos and following the story, and Pipe Dreams developed into a book later on:

A pipe dream is a fantastic hope that is regarded as being impossible to achieve. This book is dedicated to the people of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, linked by the oil pipeline and their fading hopes for a better future. Besides corporate public relations campaigns, little photographic evidence exists about the impact the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline had had on Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This book portrays life as it is lived, with no commercial or public relations agenda. It ‘un-smiles’ the calendar smiles of corporate propaganda and sheds fresh journalistic light on this geopolitically important region.

90View of Otagli village, 2km of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Turkey 2007. ©Rena Effendi

awLittle bride. Djandarsky village along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is predominantly populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis. Some of the residents here complained that they had not received compensation for their land in connection with the pipeline construction. Marneuli, Georgia, 2006. ©Rena Effendi

568Snow in Otagli village, Turkey 2007. ©Rena Effendi

asdIlyas Alban with his family at home in Otagli village. Due to BTC construction, his family’s plot of land was degraded and is expected to recover its fertility only after 12 years. Ilyas applied to local courts against Botash and is still waiting for results. “Before BTC, I had everything. Now my roof is collapsing and I have no money to fix it.” – Ilyas says. ©Rena Effendi

11Children of the Tolstoy street, Mahalla, Baku. Azerbaijan, 2003. ©Rena Effendi

1233sIlyas Alban’s two sons at their dilapidated home, Otagli, Turkey 2007. Mesheti Turk refugee and onion farmer, Meshedi Gara village along the pipeline, Azerbaijan, 2006. ©Rena Effendi

24455Refugee woman at home, Agjabedi, Azerbaijan, 2005. ©Rena Effendi

For more of Effendi’s great work, go to her official website.

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