Empire Strikes Back 

Postcards from Bosphorus (2022)

The political and social changes in Turkey in the last decades reminded me of the same transition in Russia. Nowadays many people are totally surprised, how Putin was able to become a dictator and a war criminal. An important role in this development also played the enormous amount of money and technological support, Putins Russia was able to get by trading oil and gas to European countries like Germany.

While western democratic governments continuing to deal with Erdogan, he is becoming an important player in global politics and the country itself is on the way from a republic with an relatively open, secular society to a fundamentalistic autocracy. Many liberal people in Turkey are afraid a transition to an Iran like model of a state.

When the AKP, the Erdogan party, took over more than 20 years ago, the country was on place 99 of 180 in terms of freedom of speech. Now it has been thrown back on 151. After the failed military coup back in 2016, most of the independent and oppositional journalists had to leave the country or go to jail.
Those who were able to leave, landed on so called “terror lists” and leave under pressure in fear.
Many newspapers have been closed. State oppressions and corruption are reaching a new level.

Already after the Gezi park protests in 2013 many things have changed. There is almost impossible to demonstrate for your rights. The police and special forces are blocking whole districts for many hours and even photographers with a professional camera are no more safe. Also my personal work on the project seemed to become very difficult. I heard of many colleagues being arrested during these days. For example it is not allowed to take pictures of the police and protests. 

My excuse for taking pictures during protests suddenly became the famous cats and dogs of Istanbul – although on my pictures they are in the foreground out of focus. I‘m also trying to use it as a metaphor of how naive the Western democracies are used to look at authoritarian regimes, as long as the business works well: We prefer to look at a cute cat, instead of seeing what‘s really going on.

The project has been supported by Nordic Journalist Centre and Nordic Council of Ministers.

A former Turkish Jet Fighter an an open air museum. During the last decades militarism and nationalism raised and Erdogan is sending his Jets, to bomb Kurdish towns in Syria and Iraq, at the same time while I‘m taking this picture. After the last elections in 2014 Turkey is spending more and more money for Arms (20 Billions Dollar in 2019) and becoming on the other hand one of the Drone production leaders in the world. Erdogan also supported the terrorists of the El Nusra Front in Syria with weapons, to fight Kurds back in 2015. The journalist Can Dündar had to leave the country to avoid 27 years imprisonment, after publishing an article about these illegal business practice.

Special police forces rushing to close the streets of the Üsküdar District to prevent a demonstration for women rights and against femicide and violence against women. Usually people who dare to go to demonstrate are being arrested by the police immediately to prevent them getting any publicity. Huge areas in the city are closed to public and media for many hours..

Skyland Skyscrapers - of one of the biggest real estate com- panies in Turkey and the three towers are also the tallest skyscrapers in the country. This famous complex is a symbol of the super rich, foreign investors from Saudi Arabia and Iran are buying here luxury apartments. Erdogan is famous for his building mania which goes hand in hand with segregation and corruption.

A police water canon truck waiting for a possible women rights demonstration. Behind the truck is a minaret of a large new mosque which has risen up on the west side of Istanbul’s Taksim Square in 2018, dwarfing the monument to the secular Turkish republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and commanding the public space.

“It is completely changing the topography and design of the square,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It is highly symbolic of Erdogan’s reign taking over Turkey’s republic. Erecting a mosque in the square has been a goal of several governments since the 1950s. But the latest effort is part of a government push being steered by President Recep” NYT

View on the confiscated Zaman daily headquarters now being used as court building.„The Zaman daily had at one time been the highest circulating newspaper in Turkey before it was seized by the government on March 4, 2016 over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, to be subsequently closed down with an emergency decree-law issued after a failed coup on July 15, 2016. The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup and labels it a “terrorist organization.” The movement strongly denies in- volvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity. The Gülen movement has been a critic of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his govern- ment on a range of issues including corruption, increasing authoritarianism and meddling in the Syrian civil war on the side of jihadists. Dozens of Zaman journalists have been jailed since then. The government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies.“ StockholmCF

Part of the scenery in Istanbul: police fences at the Taksim Square as they are being used to block off streets and districts to prevent demonstrations.

The recently built Neo Ottoman Camica Mosque, the biggest in Istanbul - a symbol of power of Erdogan and the new rise of Islam in secular Turkey.

A poster with an advertising of Erdogan‘s gathering with his supporters in the Galatasaray‘s NEF Stadium. It is written: „Istanbul‘s Word: Unity, Will, Victory.“ Next year‘s elections will be the last elections for Erdogan, if he would not change the constitution, which he has already done before. Owing to the economic downturn and rifts in his ruling party, this will be the first election in which Erdoğan is not the clear favourite. Many analysts are worried that Erdoğan may actively manipulate or contest the results on the election night. The AKP has millions of party members across the country and enjoys strong ties with other popular groups, such as the Ottoman Hearths and the military contractor company (SADAT) established by retired conservative officers. SADAT, which is accused of training paramilitary groups in Libya and Syria, could be used against opposition protestors.

„Erdogan Remakes Taksim Square, a Symbol of Secular Turkey. And as the mosque was going up, a beloved symbol of the Ataturk era, Istanbul’s opera house, was demolished.
Few Turks oppose the mosque — although some question its size and derivative Ottoman design — but the symbolism of a house of worship dominating the monu- ments of Ataturk’s secular republic is not lost on Istanbul residents. While Istanbul’s fabled skyline of domes and minarets may be its global signature, Taksim Square is the popular center of city life and a symbol of the modern republic founded nearly 100 years ago.

The primary gathering point in the square to meet up with friends is the monument to Ataturk, who is depicted leading supporters to victory in the fight to establish modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
The defining moment in Taksim Square’s recent history came in 2013, when it was the site of large and violent protests against Mr. Erdogan,“ NYT March 22, 2019