"I moved to Istanbul in 2007. The largest form of protest I witnessed back then was the march organized to protest the death of an editor and chief of weekly Armenian paper- AGOS. Never did it cross my mind that only few years later I am going to be part of something special, something that for some has been coined as the greatest thing that happened to the people of Turkey ever since the last coup in the 80s.
Many faces of occupygezi
There she was standing on the edge of a construction block throwing stones to the protesters. “Here take some more”, she was shouting through a medical mask that covered her face (a common accessory used by many of the protesters in Istanbul and across Turkey). I turned my camera and started taking photographs of this woman in her 50s, maybe 60s. It was hard to tell her age, only her graying hair was giving it away. For me she was just another icon of the #occupygezi protests similar to the woman in red and a woman in black (the list got longer as the protests escalated, with a young man playing a guitar boldly in front of TOMA vehicle, a naked man and later the standingman).
All these people together with tens of thousands more were taking the streets protesting. For some occupygezi was about protecting nature, for others standing up for their rights, their freedoms, their choices and the authoritarian grip of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
I was in Taksim square on May 31st, holding my camera and trying to breath through the thick smoke of tear gas. For the first time in my life, I tasted tear gas and pepper gas. For the first time in my life I saw water canons. The brutality of Turkish riot police reminded me of my home country Azerbaijan and how our police used violence to disperse crowds of people whenever they took the streets in recent years to protest its own government.
Later weeks became a routine- meetings with foreign journalists late at night, walks in Gezi Park, interviewing protesters, watching police intervene, and the never- ending feeling of resistance and solidary in the eyes of many of the faces of Gezi Park protests.
My camera was ready, capturing moments, the faces, just like that woman-throwing stones. At times it felt peaceful and at times, the scenes in Taksim square, on Istiklal and in many parts of Turkey felt no less than war scenes from movies.
Twitter and Vine became my best friends while covering the Gezi Protests. My camera and the photographs were proof of how one country and its brave people can change its destiny.
These days, I feel a different kind of Turkey. I feel like people have finally woken up and are ready to challenge the government that isn’t too ready to accept this challenge and face the reality of the Turkey it has created and at times forced upon its people.
For many this is a new beginning. As a foreigner living in Turkey, this new beginning feels exhilarating. But what is more important is not to lose this momentum. There is a long path lying ahead of Turkey now. How it is shaped now depends on its people as much as it depends on its government.
As for me… my camera is ready so as me, to see and be part of this change…"