Remembrance in Turkey:

In Search of a Shared Story

Internet, 2014

The course of events from the beginning of the heavy machinery work in Gezi Park on the night of May 27, 2013, until the forced evacuation of the park on the evening of June 15, was a turning point in Turkey's history. The Gezi Park protests were a remarkable social movement in terms of uniting several disparate generations and political organizations that would otherwise not find themselves working together.

Having begun in Istanbul's center of Taksim, the protests soon extended throughout the city and to other cities. After being harshly suppressed by the country's police forces, the protests evolved over time into neighborhood forums, solidarity organizations, and resistance movements. During the course of the Gezi Park protests, the government made great efforts to censor coverage of the events and the activists themselves, which then gave birth to the idea of direct confrontation. The idea for Remembrance in Turkey emerged as an open platform civic initiative that rose out of this direct confrontation. The idea came about after a forum session held at Seğmenler Park in Ankara, at which issues such as social dialogue and shared memory were discussed. The importance of the issue of social conscience was raised at the opening session of the forum, which was held throughout December of 2013. At this session, many people from different social groups who have been subjected to human rights violations, exclusion, and/or discrimination faced the fact that as they listened to each other's stories, they realized they did not know much about what social or political problems people from different social groups were experiencing. Thus, a very fundamental question emerged from this practice of confrontation: Why do we always experience the same things in this country?

The participants of the social conscience forum held on December 29, 2013, then developed an approach based on the idea that everything is interrelated, so everything is public and concerns everyone. Based on this, photographs of Hrant Dink and Musa Anter were carried on the day of commemoration for Uğur Mumcu. Thus, it was emphasized that Armenian, Kurdish, and Turkish intellectuals who struggled to build social and political peace in Turkey and who are victims of still unsolved murders, are also victims of the same loss of memory.

After much discussion, those in the working group that would later become the Remembrance in Turkey team agreed that activism for knowledge would be a good start. Thus, work began as of June of 2014, to create a digital archive consisting of calendar pages based on important events for the construction of social and political memory in Turkey. The Remembrance in Turkey website began publication on January 4, 2015, by asking the question: Are you ready to face the burdens of conscience, denial, and neglect that weaken the possibility of attaining social peace?





Remembrance in Turkey is an open platform to build a social memory concerning past denials, neglect, and unconfronted and unpunished events that continue to undermine the possibility of social peace. On the website, which is a type of interactive digital archive, it is possible to access information created in documentary, dramatization, and other forms regarding past rights violations and the struggles against them.

Remembrance in Turkey's core team comprises people with different perspectives from varying disciplines. People not part of the team can also contribute to each calendar page.

The first publication came on January 4, 2015. Each case objectively displays the network of common relations, similar frames of mind, and violations and punishments done with impunity while emphasizing that none of these events are singular, individual, or coincidental. This approach is embodied in Remembrance in Turkey's slogan: In pursuit of a shared story. Social events that will find their place on the calendar pages are selected from topics that have yet to be studied in the field of memory studies and which occurred in as many places as possible. The calendar pages contain the following events:

The Great Miners' March of January 4–8, 1991; the Ümraniye Prison Incident of January 4, 1996; the Murder of Ruhi Kılıçkıran on January 4, 1968; the Davutpaşa Explosion of January 31, 2008; the Collapse of the Zümrüt Apartments on February 2, 2004; the Case of BİLAR A.Ş. of February 5, 1986; the Case of Emine Akçay of March 14, 2012; the Events of Diyarbakır (Amed) of March 28–31, 2006; the Disappearance and Murder of Pippa Bacca on March 31, 2008; the Çorum Pogrom of May 29–July 4, 1980; the Documentary Kabuk: Çorum 1980; the Death of Çağatay Avşar on June 17, 2010; the Alkumru Damn Incident of August 24, 2014; and the Great Ankara Fire of September 13, 1916.

Remembrance in Turkey also offers different ways and tools to tell the truth, taking into account the varying interests of different segments of society. For example, in addition to the short films in its archives available to general participants, the archives also contain articles for academics. The platform attempts to reach people from all segments of society as much as possible, rather than any specific group.

As with many other mediums that work in the field of collective memory, the main impact of Remembrance in Turkey is to be a resource for research. The data the platform has compiled from existing sources and revealed through its efforts is a wealth of references for publications, particularly academic. The files the platform has prepared provide a vast amount of bulk data on the subject to researchers. Remembrance in Turkey's slogan, in search of a shared story, embodies the impact the platform aims to achieve, revealing the interconnectedness of events from different periods of history that on first glance appear to be independent and isolated from one another.

Having adopted the method of information activism, the platform provides accurate information on events and presents the relationships between the data through various types of content. Although there are no concrete examples of the impact of this method on the social conscience, the objective is structured in a way to be measured over a long period of time. Apart from this, Remembrance in Turkey's undertakings facilitate the use of different types of content and methods of communication in the field of collective memory. The platform presents information in a creative and reproducible way through content such as stories, videos/documentaries, references, photographs, and cultural and artistic productions, and news articles about it.

One of Remembrance in Turkey's impacts concerns the way of production. The working method, which is explained in detail on the website, aims to spread forms of collective production. The production method for the files involves everyone undertaking the draft of a type of content, after which other volunteers offer criticism and contributions, all with the purpose to be an example of democratic knowledge production.

According to the Remembrance in Turkey team, challenges fall into two categories, one related to the working method and team self-management, and the other to external problems that directly or indirectly affect the team. The team faces a challenge in creating a common language and planning the production phase due to the intellectual and political differences involved. Access to open-source data and the issues with archiving and record-keeping in Turkey are also obstacles. As with many civil society organizations, its inclusion of volunteers can also create problems in terms of continuous and sustainable work. The environment of political polarization can also impede the dissemination of the content produced, as some content only reaches specific, homogenous groups. Remembrance in Turkey’s main purpose, however, is to create a multi-faceted repository of a multitude of voices that those searching for it can find. With this goal, the team believes that the platform being there, existing, and being accessible is much more important in the long run than rapid dissemination.