Davutpasa, facing off…
The most turbulent days of the 1980s. Young men, their average age not exceeding twenty, are stuck in the midst of an unrelenting struggle on the streets of Istanbul. Some are friends from the neighbourhood, some are in love with their young man’s code of honour, and some are militants who believe that politics could change the world. They are brave and honest, and they want a better world.
Their paths cross at a ward of a military prison, its name: Davutpasa Mid.3. In the middle of the Davutpasa Barracks, an old military barracks in the suburbs of Istanbul…
The night of September eleven… Some of them have been imprisoned there for a few months now, they are the older residents of Mid 3… That night, they sense something approaching. On the morning of September 12, the announcements blasting over the loudspeakers of the prison declare the beginning of a new period. The young inmates’ state of mind is summarized in a single sentence in Sahin Arslan’s words: “The issue was not what may happen the next day, but whether we would survive.”
With the 12 September 1980 coup d’état, the Turkish Armed Forces toppled the government of Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel, abolished the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, and shelved the 1961 Constitution. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, military courts were working night and day. Prisons had turned into relentless, colossal torture houses where people were crushed.
Many years later, the inmates of Mid 3 have found themselves and their memories a new place to share in this book. Life had brought them together in the same ward in the 1980s; many years later, this book brings the same people together again. A while later, they will perhaps disperse, never to meet again.
The old inmates were treated as if they were in a time tunnel, on a stage constructed somewhere between the past and the future. The places where the photographs have been taken not only contain details regarding the past and present of the people in the portraits, but also feature clues that point towards the world beyond that field, for instance, towards the transformation of Turkey. Thus, a family album striving to exist in memory, begins to exist in the reality of the present as a document that has been handed down from the past.
…The portraits in these constructed places are an opportunity to face-off, both for the viewer, and the person who has been photographed. “Which traces of youth remain?” is one question that comes to mind. The shadow of an old code of conduct –the way the legs have been crossed, the tesbih [worry beads] in one hand, the challenging manner of a certain slant, or the weathered look emanating from a crestfallen glance? The people in the portraits are left facing their own reality, their present condition and their own mortality in these photographs. Even the negatives on which the portraits are recorded on, the paper they are printed on, and the wood of their frames will last longer than these lives enriched with dedication and complexity.