Every day, more than two million people cross between Europe and Asia across Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway.
An integral part of the city- and by extention, the country’s indentity is it’s transcontinental status — the bridge that connects Europe and Asia both in a literal and metaphorical sense.
I arrived in Istanbul in the days leading up to the historic referendum on April 16, 2017 that set in motion a transformation of Turkish politics, replacing the current parliamentary system with one dominated by a powerful presidency. What I met there, was a city deeply divided.
At the time of my arrival, Avrupa, or Europe, was hanging like a dark cloud over the upcoming referendum and the Venice Commission, which advises the Council of Europe had recently stated that the new constitution would put Turkey “on the road to an autocracy.”
Walking down the narrow streets of Eyüp and Kadıköy there was no escaping building-sized portraits of the president and the prime minister and everywhere in the city, posters, banners and discarded paper-handouts reading For a Stronger Turkey, Evet.
Occasionally, a poster depicting a young girl in pigtails could be spotted but many of these had been partially torn down. Her message: For My Future, Hayır. She was smiling.
One of the things that have alwas captivated me about Istanbul is the diversity of lifestyles, co-existing side by side here. But it felt as if something was different this time. Below the the surface-level pluralism of the city, there was an undercurrent of something ominous, a strange sense of angst difficult to put into words. The following photos are my personal reflections on this feeling of diversion and distrust that had the vibrant city by a chokehold.
Aleksander Klug, July 16, 2017