the faraway district by özge sebzeci
Sultanbeyli is a district on the outskirts of Istanbul known as the fortress of the ruling conservative pro-Islamist AKP party, which received 68,65% of the votes in 2011. This impoverished district grew from 3,000 people in 1985 to almost 400,000 people in 2013 as a large migration from rural areas and cities flooded the area from all over Turkey.
Tensions are rising in the run up to elections on March 30th. In recent days, Twitter and YouTube have been shut down as the government has tried to limit freedom of speech and the press. Last June, environmentalist Gezi Park protests turned into a crackdown in which eight young people died. Recently, the AKP government is facing corruption and bribery allegations.
In Sultanbeyli, the agenda is different. Many residents continue to support Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan because the AKP supported the construction of a multitude of infrastructure projects, including new hospitals, roads, schools and general economic growth. He also extended further cultural and religious freedoms to many people in the region.
I decided to look at this place in a time where the political agenda of Turkey is very fragile. Conservative people live in their own neighborhood and secular people live in theirs. I consider the polarisation in the country very dangerous and people with different opinions tend to listen less and don’t try to understand each other. That’s why I wanted to dive into the lives of these people that are often prejudged, and try to find out more about them.
After Ozge Sebzeci (born 1988) graduated from an International Relations program, she continued in the one-year documentary photography program of Galata Fotografhanesi. Currently, she is working on her own long-term photography projects. She is based in Istanbul.