Saturday People

Some time ago, my close family increased in number with the addition of someone who came to the UK looking for life in a democracy (another story)

Because of this, I began to follow news about Kurdistan, a country which both exists and doesn’t exist, depending on what perspective you see it from.

Just like anywhere, really. Where you come from is the result of layers of ever changing take-overs. The more “central” your position on the map in terms of trade, the more dense those layers are; identities and territories richly intertwined in constantly changing patterns of possession and dispossession, alignment and re-alignment. This is the constant.

But we only usually get to see the official version of this “history”. Perspective, it seems, comes with privilege. Meanwhile, other versions persist.

This series of altered news pictures are taken from photographs which capture a moment during the 700th Saturday Mother’s protest/vigil on Saturday August 25th 2018, which was banned by the Turkish authorities. Sometimes it seemed there were just as many news photographers as police. One of the many good reasons to protest in central urban spaces and let everyone know beforehand.

It is a moment of resistance and unity; members of the group defy the ban and sit together. They are gradually removed but at this point they are holding firm. The photographs are already reminiscent of “old master” paintings of historical or biblical events. The images have that kind of power and urgency. Just as official versions of history highlight the “winners”, the aim here is to capture the power of resistance.

Background (info taken from wikipedia: saturday mothers)

The Saturday Mothers (Cumartesi Anneleri) is a group who gathers 12pm every Saturday for half an hour at Galatasaray (district), Istanbul (Turkey), holding photographs of their “lost” loved ones. Mainly composed of relatives of victims and renowned as a model of civil disobedience, they combine silent sit-in with communal vigil as their method of protest against the forced disappearances and political murders in Turkey during the military coup-era of 1980s and the OHAL-era of 1990s.

On August 25th, 2018, Turkish authorities announced that the governorship has banned the gathering event. Following the announcement, in their 700th peaceful protest, Saturday Mothers were faced with police violence and several of the participants were detained .

According to the Human Rights Association, between 1992 and 1996, 792 state-forced disappearances and murders have been reported in the east of Turkey, with many more missing persons who remain unreported (see also, OHAL).

Reportedly influenced by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, their first sit-in was on May 27, 1995. After facing violent police attacks almost every week, on March 13, 1999, they were forced to halt their protest following a particularly harsh series of attacks by the police and the resulting trauma in the participants. They resumed their protests on January 31, 2009. Currently, the group that started with about 30 people has thousands of participants.

Their demands are:

  • to raise awareness of state-sponsored violence, militarization, and militarism in Turkey,

  • the state documents archives to be opened up for public review in order for state-sponsored political murders to be brought to light,

  • changes to the Turkish penal code to be made in order to remove the statute of limitation on political murders and forced disappearances,

  • Turkey to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

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The Guide

The Guide

Melanie Friend, The Guide, 2000
After experiencing Melanie Friend’s piece, The Guide, I was reflecting on the exchange that takes place between the guide and the guided… You bring your interest and attention to the guide and in exchange they take you on a journey to your site of interest… in this case the site is a slide of a place of massacre in Kosovo. An uphill view of a stony path leading to a summit of green bushes meeting blue sky and white clouds. The guide is a 17 minute soundtrack recorded on site, telling one person’s experience of the event. The exchange that Friend has created here is giving someone the chance who is willing to tell their story to an other who is willing to hear it. The gift is the way Friend has done this.