This collection of information on memorial projects in Turkey, Memorialize Turkey highlights examples of memorialization among the many groups and individuals that have suffered harm or grievance over the past 100 years in the late Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, as a result of a joint project. The project started in 2013 as a collaboration between the World Policy Institute in New York, the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Hafıza Merkezi in Istanbul. The initial project idea was suggested by Belinda Cooper, World Policy Institute, after attending Hafıza Merkezi’s workshop on Memorialization in December 2011, İstanbul. It was to compile efforts of memorialization led by different actors that contribute to the democratization of the memory space in Turkey dominated by an exclusive, nationalist and one-dimensional conventional national memory. To explore further the questions surrounding memorialization and the ways in which it can contribute to human rights activism and the struggle for a full-fledged democracy that came up during this first workshop, we organized a follow-up workshop in Mardin in February 2013. We brought together participants from various political initiatives, representing different ethnic and religious identities that actively worked in memorialization efforts. We also invited experts on memorialization from Germany, Israel, and Bosnia, three countries representing different experiences of dealing with the past and contested histories.
This website, thus, started as an outgrowth of these workshops. In its first version started in 2013, it provided information on 26 projects throughout Turkey, seeking to address historical atrocities that have been denied, repressed, or misinterpreted. These initiatives were mostly physical memorial projects, using rather typical forms of memorialization such as statues, temples, parks, monuments and former prisons. In the following years, as Hafıza Merkezi we started to engage with new technologies and creative methods that aimed to render memorialization efforts more appealing and accessible for younger generations. We organized public panels on the role of new mediums like gaming and virtual reality for telling stories and disseminating alternative narratives on gross human rights violations and dealing with the past. Also, we invested on improving the creative storytelling capacities of human rights NGOs, building working collaborations between them and agents of creative disciplines. As we became more engaged with novel techniques and methods of truth telling during 2018 and 2019, our focus on memorialization has diversified. In this context, in order to highlight our recent focus on the changing landscape in memory initiatives, we decided to compile a new selection of 12 cases. Accordingly, the website now covers 37 projects, which can be filtered in their forms and ownership.
Visit the project website here.