- Category: Photography
- Published on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 23:33
- Written by Chris
Observers and pundits have been arguing for years what role new forms of communication play in modern revolutions. The media loves to label uprisings with an easy soundbite name, either color: Orange Revolution, Saffron Revolution. Or seasonal, like the Arab Spring and Arab Winter. Or new media: Twitter Revolution, Facebook Revolution. Others make waves polemicizing against such easy appellations. Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote an essay entitled Small Change: The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted, wherein he argues that strong ties are essential to fighting against the powers that be, while social media engenders weak ties primarily. I used to teach an entire quarter semester on this very subject. Whether social media fosters or merely aids revolutionaries, what is very clear is that since at least the Vietnam War, the public has access to increasingly vivid images of every conflict. The last conflict that wasn't beamed into every person's living room was the Korean War. Now, if you wanted to, you could watch the Syrian civil war in real time.
The ubiquity of cheap, high quality cameras and video recorders, coupled with 3G networks and wi-fi, has led to a surging ocean of imagery from every important human event taking place around the world. Right this very second, you can see videos of police crackdowns in Brazil, rebels fleeing government and Hezbollah in Syria, Keystone XL protesters in the US, and so much more. Future historians will spend hours directing their grad students to sort through these troves of visual data. That and LOLcats.
The protests in Turkey, ongoing at the time of this article's publication, have generated many dramatic images. This list is by no means exhaustive. The images selected highlight important aspects of the protests, and speak to the greater cultural significance of this moment in Turkey's history. Please feel free to suggest other images you feel deserve more attention, in the comment section.
1. The Lady in the Red Dress
Photo: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS
One of the first images to get worldwide attention, The Lady in the Red Dress is perhaps the iconic photo of the Gezi Park protests. But who is the woman depicted in this shocking image? Professor Ceyda Sungur is a reluctant heroine. She has mostly avoided the presses, preferring to give attention to the thousands of people mistreated by draconian police tactics.
2. The Whirling Dervish
Whirling Sufi dances are a traditional aspect of Turkish culture and a mainstay of Turkish tourism. You can't go to any souvenir shop without seeing dozens of ceramic versions of the flowing robes. It is, therefore, not surprising to find someone performing the traditional whirling dervish dance in a gas mask amid the festive atmosphere of Gezi Park in between police attacks.
3. Lawyer Dragged from Court House
Dozens of lawyers defending protesters swept up in police raids have themselves been arrested. Rumors circulate that doctors and nurses may have been hassled by the police as well. Certainly, Turkey jails more journalists than any other country.
4. Hide and Seek
With the gas bomb haze, the water cannon tank, the young woman hiding in the nook by the German Hospital, this photo captures the terror of the police attacks against the protesters well. While I did not find the original source of this photo, I did find this blog that has many dramatic images worth checking out.
5. Mass Yoga
6. Standing Man
After police cleared protesters from Taksim Square, one man inspired a new form of resistance that swept across Turkey. From Hurriyet Daily News:
The young man, later identified as performance artist Erdem Gündüz, stood in the same place without moving for eight hours on June 17, staring at the flag of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the Atatürk Culture Center.
This man is reading a book by the Turkish republic's beloved founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This picture demonstrates the underlying conflict behind these protests: Atatürk's secular vision for the country he created out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, versus the Islamist program of the ruling AK Party. The police force is widely seen as being strongly behind the AKP's vision, while much of the urban population, as well as the armed forces, fight to defend Atatürk's secular ideals.
A few honorable mentions
Source: Fatih Kece/AFP/Getty Images
AFP Photo / Adem Altan
Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images
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- Category: Events
- Published on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 14:27
- Written by Chris
Check out the news this week and you'll see images of students and police battling on the streets of Istanbul and across Turkey. Most of these broadcasts and article explain that the students are demonstrating against the demolition of a Gezi Park in central Istanbul. It's a small green island in the concrete sea of Turkey's largest city. The trees are old and grizzly, the grass a little sparse and matted from foot traffic. You wouldn't think much of the park if you saw it; in fact, I didn't even remember walking through it on the way to a flamenco concert a few months ago, until my girlfriend - a Turk, if you must know - reminded me of it.
However, while the park may not exactly be the equivalent of New York's Central Park or London's Hyde Park, it is one of the few green oases in the city. More importantly, it's a part of the symbolic heart of the city - Taksim Square - and the reason it will be demolished is scandalous. The plan is to build a mall, the 94th mall in a city that is saturated with shopping opportunities. Worse, the government is selling public space to developers with ties to...the ruling party. The government, naturally, says this isn't true.
There is a problem with this narrative, however: the park's destruction is not what the protests are about. Not exactly. The peaceful sit-in that led to the first police assault may have been the catalyst for the protests that followed, but the park merely gives a physical space to the growing anger in the country's zeitgeist. And it's not just students protesting. As my friend Hamish, a long-time resident of Istanbul, said, "The police know how to fight against students. They have no idea what to do against middle age demonstrators, old people, and everyone else."
In the past few weeks, the ruling AK Party and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have done much to foment unrest. Authorities in Istanbul forbade demonstrations in Taksim during the May Day holiday, leading to clashes with the police as protesters in the Beşiktaş neighborhood as they tried to march to the main square. Following that, a new anti-alcohol bill was passed, limiting sales and raising prices (unrest from merchants, tourism promoters, and the hospitality industry helped soften the bill before passage). A week before the Gezi Park protests, public authorities in the capital city of Ankara began a public service campaign against kissing in public, which led to kiss-ins in the Ankara metro. All of these incidents compounded years of creeping Islamism in a country founded on a strictly secular constitution by the revered Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The ruling AK Party has seen their successes at the ballot box as a mandate to roll back secularism.
If the party is so unpopular as to spark a week of bitter unrest, why do they keep winning soundly in election after election? Firstly, there is no unified opposition. Several small, bitterly-divided parties split the votes against the party and rarely manage to form any sort of coherent bloc against the AKP. The communists, the anarchists, the terrorist-linked Kurdish labor party, and others have little interest in working with each other. The older folks and people outside the big cities are strongly in favor of the AKP as well. Opposition is strongest in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, keeping the liberals' power somewhat isolated. Most of the rest of the country has been, until this past week, reliably pro-government.
Secondly, and in my opinion a more fundamental issue, is Turkey's precarious straddling of Europe and Asia. If you think back to Samuel Huntington's now-disfavored 'clash of civilization' concept, places where Christianity and Islam meet will be the site of warfare and unrest. Turkey has, since the reign of Suleiman the Great, been pretty firmly in the Islam camp. But most of Turkey's borders are Christian, and the Orthodox church is the second most visible faith in Turkey. But lets step back from Christianity for a moment and consider the conflict from Euro-American post-Enlightenment civilization brushing up against the Turkic-Persian-Arabio Islamic world. Until about fifteen years ago, until the end of the Cold War, the US worked hard to keep secular Islamic Turkey squarely in the NATO camp as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. Many forget the role Turkey's geography and alignment played in the Cuban Missile Crisis. American missiles were nudged right up against the USSR's rump along Turkey's border. Throughout the Cold War years, Europe kept Turkey as far away as possible while still keeping Turkey within its sphere, dangling carrots, saying that if Turkey could just jump through a few more hoops, they'd be welcomed into the family.
As the EU grew from a trade zone into more of a unified confederacy, and the Soviet Union choked on its hubris, Turkey held out hope that their long-suffering efforts to join in the European reindeer games would come to fruition. Nope! Not yours, Turkey!
Being rejected again and again, its citizens still struggling to get visas just to visit the great cities of the continent, Turkey began to look east to the petro-dollar rich Middle East as well as the post-Soviet Asian republics. Turkey, thanks to its once vast empire, left large swaths of Turkic people throughout Central Asia, and as the Soviet Union's tide rolled back, these Turkic peoples looked back to their ancient capital for friendship and leadership. Iran and Saudi Arabia canceled each others' voices out in the public sphere; Iraq was pariah. Turkey, one foot on both continents, began to assert itself as a mediator between Europe and the Islamic world. And in this role, Turkey found itself in a position of authority and moderation. Once again, its geography granted it special consideration. It didn't hurt that Turkey's economy was doing well without all the oil that the Middle East relied upon. Turkey could offer a post-fossil fuel economic model.
So, because Europe continued keeping Turkey at arm's length, and the Persian-Arabic world needed a leader, the stage was set for the conservative AKP to take the reigns. Continued success economically, growing pride as a leader of the Islamic world, and the division of the liberal parties, proved a fertile ground to role back the secular state. A decade since coming to power, Prime Minister Erdoğan seems to have forgotten that he is not an Arabic dictator. The police, the AKP's rival to the pro-Atatürk military, have been used with increased brutality, as we have seen in Mubarak's Egypt and Assad's Syria, for example. His proclamations that he could mobilize millions to the protesters thousands, that the protesters are terrorists, that Twitter is the problem...these are the words of a self-aggrandized autocrat divorced from reality.
Is this the dawning of a Turkish Spring? I do not think so. Turkey is a democracy, not just in name but in reality. It seems highly unlikely the government will collapse or Erdoğan will step down early. Maybe, maybe he will announce that he will not stand for parliament again. Even that seems somewhat unlikely. What is likely is that the leftist parties will do much better at the ballot box in the next election. The brutality of the police has radicalized many against the regime.
The consequences of these protests may well spread far beyond saving one small park. We can only hope.
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- Category: Anecdotes
- Published on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 23:36
- Written by Sabrina
Through the twisting corridors of an underground Korean shopping centre, to the very last exit, and then down a short side street stood a café called F-Hole.
The first time I went, everyone was looking at Joshua Stern, a Connecticut native then teaching English in Korea, when I arrived. He was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt, had a guitar across his knees, and was engaging everyone in a call-back version of his song Natalia.
On a Wednesday evening, it would be filled with foreigners talking over Heineken and wet glasses of sangria. If you showed up late, people would smile and make room for you to sit down, but mostly they’d be watching the performers.
“It was sort of like therapy in a way,” Stern says, looking back on it. “Having a good group of people around you and performing something and just really putting it out there.”
While teaching at a middle school in Incheon, South Korea, Stern helped to form Expression Night with fellow teacher, Bryan Freeman and café owner, Byeong Seok Yu.
“I kind of took it under my wing for selfish reasons,” Stern says. “I just wanted a place to play and express myself.”
A year later, Stern returned to North American to record Food for the Lonely with his band, Zoo Machine. If not for Expression Night, it might never have come together at all.
Originally in a band with Minyan Zhu years ago, he and Stern formed Zoo Machine when the band broke up. With Stern in Poland and then Toronto while Zhu was in Connecticut, they weren’t often in the same country or city.
“Every time we’d get together we’d write a song,” Stern says. “A year would pass and we’d write a new song. Basically, it took 10 years to get five songs recorded.”
Living in Korea, Stern used his free time to write and Expression Night to build confidence in his song-writing and singing.
As the only open mic night in Incheon at the time, a core group of local musicians and writers started going and performing every week.
“Even on bad weather nights people came out and kind of created a nice space of positivity and happiness,” Stern recalls.
Spending his year working on his music, by the time he returned home to North America, he was ready to reunite with Zhu for Zoo Machine’s album.
“Every Tuesday night I’d get together with him,” Stern says of his return. “We’d have some beer and we’d work on music.”
Released on August 12, 2012, the album is available here for a minimum price of $3. It’s a soothing pop rock album perfect for sitting on a warm summer day with a beer.
From one side of the world to the other, Stern’s music developed through his experiences abroad and at home.
“Funny, sad, cathartic,” Stern says. “It was great.”
This is the new “After Korea” series.
So many people have lived and taught in South Korea in the past 10 years and gone on to do interesting and random things. This series looks at what they’re up to and how their time in Korea impacted their current projects.
If you have a project you’d like to see featured on “After Korea”, let me know: sabrinanemis[at]gmail.comAdd a comment
- Category: Events
- Published on Saturday, 11 May 2013 16:16
- Written by Doug
Though the Lotus Lantern Festival is mostly the same every year, I still enjoy seeing it when I can. This year there was a contingent holding hangeul (Korean alphabet) shaped lanterns. I assume the characters spell out the contents of one of the wooden scripture blocks, like those held in Haeinsa.
Nothing much to say, just photos!
- Category: Travel
- Published on Sunday, 05 May 2013 10:23
- Written by Tania
As an expatriate in Seoul, it is inevitable that one will, at some point during their stay, participate in the national pastime. No, not drinking. Hiking. And with so many accessible and scenic hiking trails in the city, you’d be crazy not to.
I’ve done the odd trail here and there and have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the temples and other historical artifacts and cultural legacies along the way (hello creepy shamanistic ritual involving dead animals!)
However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I did my first big, long hike deep in the countryside. My 22 year old whippersnapper Canadian friend who would give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money is a keen hiker and Meetup-er. She encouraged me to sign up to the group and before I knew it, I was on a bus with a hoard of 40 other hikers, both Korean and foreign. We were headed to Chiaksan National Park near the small city of Wonju in the east of the country.
Once at our destination, a very large, steep mountain stared down at me. It was going to take at least six hours to go up one side and down the other. ‘Holy crap’ was my first thought. But I’m a trooper, and so I started to stomp up the hill, ready to conquer. Except that after ten minutes, my calf muscles started to burn and I was dripping with sweat. My breathing was not dissimilar to a woman in labour. My friend powered ahead, her age and baby giraffe legs giving her an unfair advantage.
I was lagging behind but found that eavesdropping on the conversations happening around me were a good distraction from trudging up thousands of unstable steps at a 45 degree angle.
In front were two chatty North American girls who spoke quickly and covered a range of like, totally awesome, topics: teaching English, acting, writing, climbing, traveling, mortgages, student loans, traveling.
The German man behind me was practicing his English skills with his new friend: “I just learnt the word ‘wanker’ – I can use it like this: that guy at the bank was a wanker. Hey! Don’t do that, you wanker!”
Yes, it was a long, long way to the top. But eventually, I made it. My friend and two thirds of the hiking group had already eaten most of their lunch in the twenty minutes they had been waiting for the stragglers. For the slow climbing group, there were only a few minutes to take some pictures, swig some water and violate a Snicker’s Bar.
The sense of relief of venturing downhill was short-lived. Turns out that navigating thousands of steps, rocks and uneven pathways going downhill is almost as perilous and tiresome as going up (although not quite). As the sun slowly faded, there was a strong breeze. Everyone powered ahead on their second wind while my new Dutch friend, who was cursing wearing jeans, walked with me. We ambled along, helping each other slide down rocks and jump over ditches. Everyone was so far ahead of us we wondered if we’d taken a wrong turn. We kept following the signs to the temple at the foot of the mountain: 3.2 Kms, 3.0 Kms, 2.8 Kms…was this torture ever going to end?
By now, our legs were shaking and felt like jelly. We had drunk all our water and our mouths were dry like cottonwool. Our shoulders ached from carrying our backpacks and we had small but painful blisters on our heels. We started to catastrophize about being lost. Of nightfall coming and our bus leaving without us. Then we stopped talking because we were just…so… tired.
After three hours of this, we heard the powerful surge of a river. In the distance, we saw fluro-coloured jackets, backpacks and visors. People. Our people!
We high-fived those that we recognized and got to rest for five minutes while they put on their shoes after paddling around in the icy water. They had been lying about on the rocks, literally having a picnic for thirty minutes while waiting for us. Wankers.
Thank goodness the last stretch was well-paved and relatively flat. There were pools of water the color of peppermint and the gentle pinks of the cherry blossoms seemed to glow as the sun set behind the clusters of forest.
As we neared the food stands that signified the end of our arduous journey, the sense of accomplishment was amazing but quickly overridden by my body’s demands for food and water.
The men celebrated by drinking traditional Korean rice wine (and the Europeans with beer). We stumbled back onto the bus, looking forward to a nap as we headed back towards Seoul. The Korean woman who sat next to me gave me some of her special homemade herbal tea. She said if I drank it, I wouldn’t be sore the next day. Well, I did and I am. She also offered to do acupuncture on my ankle, which I complained was sore. She enthusiastically pulled out her little needle kit and was about to open one of the little packets when I made it clear there would be no puncturing of my body with needles. Disappointed, she stuffed them back into her bag and closed her eyes. I did the same – even the rainbow of neon lights on the ceiling of the bus couldn’t distract me from sleeping like a log.Add a comment