I lived in Turkey for 2.5 years and did photo essays about that beautiful country with its variety of landscapes, historical places, and people. Then I began to write about the freedom protests that began last spring because of Turkey’s oppressive government. That led to an article about censorship. Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country. As I witnessed the freedom protests close-up, taking videos of peaceful people walking in unison for the right to speak freely in their own country, I felt a close bond with Turkey.
My Turkish husband, who had been tortured by the Turkish police, went with me to meet friends one Sunday afternoon for tea in Istanbul. We witnessed police attacking tourists with water canon and pepper spray. As we made our way home, the police chased us, and the pepper spray I was engulfed in made me sick for days. Ironically, I left Turkey just days before police showed up at my old apartment door to arrest me for a photo I had published.
See the photo here, minus the woman whose image used to be in it (she complained to the police). It shows the Kocaeli Book Fair building with a banner of Ataturk, founder of the secular, democratic Republic of Turkey next to its current ruler, the Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan, who makes his image as large as Ataturk’s. Notice the flag poles like bars in the foreground, layers of oppression.