The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay
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July 2015 issue
by Sean Hawkey
I visited Turkey to observe the elections that saw the pro-Kurdish HDP party break the autocratic, nearly theocratic,
control that the ruling AKP had on the country. The images show a bombing of an HDP rally in Diyarbakir where
several died and 400 were injured. As well as their ongoing struggle for recognition and an end to persecution in
Turkey, the long-suffering Kurds are now on the frontline against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Just before the elections, Kurdish men drank tea and talked politics in the streets of Diyarbakir, a Kurdish city in
Turkey. The wall behind them is painted with signs that show local support for Kurdish guerrilla groups. Just a few miles
from Diyarbakir, the Kurds are the front line in the fight against ISIS. In this city, the pro-Kurdish HDP party polled more
than 70% of the vote in the June 7 elections.
During the HDP rally in Diyarbakir supporters waved flags as they waited for HDP co-chair Selahattin Dermitas to
speak. Minutes after this image was taken two bombs were detonated in the crowd, one of them directly under the
electricity transformer that people are seated on top of in this image. Three people were killed and 400 were injured.
The police then teargassed the panicking crowd.
In the run up to the elections HDP supporters took to the streets across Turkey. The biggest rally was in Diyarbakir
where some 60,000 marched in support of HDP. The huge support for HDP in the elections created a shift in Turkish
politics away from the autocratic and theocratic political control of President Erdogan and his AKP party.
Men stood on a wall to get a glimpse of speakers and to wave their HDP flags.
Women in traditional Kurdish dress danced in the streets during the HDP rally.
Moments before the bombs went off in the crowd, every road into the rally in Diyarbakir was packed with thousands of
In this Kurdish city of more than 1m people, more than 70% voted for the pro-Kurdish, environmentalist and feminist
Posters of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan appeared along with HDP banners, Ocalan has been imprisoned in Turkey
for more than 15 years.
The bombs that went off in the crowd were packed with ballbearings and injured hundreds. Though ambulances were
waiting, they couldn’t deal with the large number of casualties and many injured waited up to an hour to escape the
Injured were given first aid in the streets as they waited to get taken to hospitals.
People were given makeshift bandages and torniquets to stop bleeding. The popular suspicion in the crowd was that
the government was responsible for the bombing.
Police continued to fire teargas as the injured were carried through the crowds. The sense that violence against the
Kurds is supported and orchestrated by the state was clear.
Outside the hospitals in Diyarbakir there were scenes of anguish as people waited for news of relatives and friends.
Thousands of volunteers waited to give blood.
The elections themselves were held in schools such as this one in Gaziantep, and were carried out largely
uneventfully, but the atmosphere was marred by tension and the threat of violence. The critical point of the election was
that the ruling AKP party would retain its majority unless the HDP could pass the 10% electoral threshold, the highest
electoral threshold in the world. If they didn’t reach the threshold, all the votes for HDP would go to the ruling party.
It became clear as results came in across the country that the HDP had passed the threshold easily, taking more than
13% of the vote nationally. The ruling party’s majority was broken and a coalition would need to be formed. Fireworks
went off all night in cities like Gaziantep.
In Diyarbakir, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate. More than 70% of the vote in this city
of a million people voted for HDP.
Many waved Kurdish flags as they drove through the streets.
Flares and fireworks lit the night.