Istanbul's 'Woman In Red' Breaks Her Silence

Ceyda Sungur became the symbol of the Gezi Park protests that shook Turkey because of photograph of a police officer spraying her with gas. That officer now has an unlikely defender.

The now iconic picture by Reuters photographer Osman Orsal
The now iconic picture by Reuters photographer Osman Orsal
Ceyda Sungur

Ceyda Sungur became known in Turkey, and beyond, as the “Woman in Red,” the symbol of the Gezi park protests last year in Istanbul after she was photographed while being teargassed by a police officer. Sungur has avoided publicity and press to this day, having stated that her situation is not unique and she does not want to be in the spotlight. However, Sungur penned an article for the daily Radikal when the case made the news after the police officer who gassed her in that famous picture faces trial and possible banning from his profession.

ISTANBUL — I did not want to talk until now, in order to not to give shape to the “woman in red,” change its symbolic value in people's minds or create an agenda in which individuals come before the struggle itself. But I felt obliged to write the following words; obliged most of all to the families of those who lost their lives at Gezi. The recent news of the charges against the police officer disturbed me greatly.

Let nobody speak of justice until the murderers of those we have lost at the Gezi resistance and the actual responsible parties are punished! Sending to trial a lone, 23-year-old cop who was acting under the orders of his superiors does not whitewash the oppression of the ruling administration that still claims the police carried out “legendary heroism.”

The sentence to be given to the officer on trial for spraying gas into my face makes no sense in terms of justice, seeing that none of the complaints of those injured by police violence resulted in court cases in the seven months that have passed since Gezi.

It is obvious that leaving the court process at this level is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate the effect a symbolic picture that just a red dress left on the world. Trying only the junior police officers, whose working conditions and job security are at the hands of their superiors, will not ease the pain of everybody who died, suffered cerebral hemorrhage, lost their eyes, had legs and arms broken or were hurt in any other way at Gezi — and it will certainly not ease the pain of the families who lost loved ones, nor those of us who were left alive by chance, too.

Remember their names

Unfortunately, when Ethem Sarisuluk was shot in the head by a police bullet, when Abdullah Comert was hit in the head by a gas pellet, when Mehmet Ayvalitas was crushed while attending the demonstrations, when Irfan Tuna was gassed while working, when Medeni Yildirim was protesting the construction of a military post at Lice, when Selim Onder was visiting his daughter, when Zeynep Eryasar joined a protest march in solidarity with her children at the Gezi Park, when Ahmet Atakan demanded the killers to be brought to justice, when Ali Ismail Korkmaz was beaten to death and when Serdar Kadakal was sitting at the street across from his workplace; none of them were wearing a red dress. Berkin Elvan, our now 15-year-old brother with his beautiful eyes, committed no greater crime than going to the grocery store to buy bread. (He was hit in the head by a gas cannister shot by police, and remains in a coma.)

The fact that these people were not photographed by chance cannot be an excuse for the parties responsible for what happened to them not to be tried and punished.

Of course, today, we cannot speak of justice within a system that arrests journalists who defend rights and freedoms, political prisoners, the CHD lawyers who defend the victims of injustice, the academics who defend free science; just like Hrant Dink"s, the activist journalist, whose assassination’s seventh anniversary was this past week. Despite all of what happened to these people, nothing that was experienced will be forgotten — no one will ever get used to it.

Justice will be served only by the struggle for human rights, and I believe Berkin will wake up from his coma to help see it happen.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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