Enforced disappearances in the dictionary of relatives of the disappeared

[Photograph: An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera. / An image of a loved one which usually is carried by hands or on lab in the square where the loved one is commemorated.]

Sometimes, the best way to communicate the uniqueness of the pain suffered by the victim of a crime is to convey her unusual relationship with things that are otherwise deemed ordinary. Bone, body, phone, door, pajamas, mask, petition, farmer, photograph… Maybe most of us associate these words only with their literal meanings. On the other hand, in the world of the forcibly disappeared, the same words and notions have very different meanings and connotations.

The dictionary of enforced disappearances is a social media campaign that aims to portray the cruelty of the crime of enforced disappearance and the pain suffered by its victims by using literal meanings of the words. Pınar ilkiz, founder of the Pikan Agency, came up with the idea in the workshop we held on 11 February 2017.

Around 40 participants coming from the fields of database design, programming, data visualization, gamification, visual arts and corporate communications took part in the workshop, with which we aimed tell the stories of enforced disappearances by using innovative visual tools.

In the workshop, we developed prototypes for a number of innovative visualization projects. The dictionary of the enforced disappearance was one of those ideas, which we also had the chance to implement in the follow-up phase.

In the preparation phase of the campaign conducted together with the Pikan Agency, we examined Hafıza Merkezi’s sources of data (enforced disappearances database, reports and interviews conducted with relatives of forcibly disappeared persons). Words we have picked have ‘ordinary’ meanings when used in daily life but represent certain visible aspects of the crime in the semantics of enforced disappearances. For instance, during the interviews, some of the relatives told us that their disappeared loved ones did not even have time to take off their pajamas while they were detained by security forces. Therefore, these narratives brought together the imagery of pajamas with the bitter feeling caused by a person’s brutal separation from her home, her safe space, as well as from her family. We see door and phone as two words which evoke a sense of hope. For the relatives of disappeared people, who may still wonder “maybe it’s her” when they hear the doorbell or a phone ringing, this sense of hope prevents them from grieving their loved ones. Our examination has revealed 27 similar words and notions.

We have prepared descriptions that relate the world of the forcibly disappeared for each word and notion we have picked. While telling about these traumatic experiences, we had to capture the attention of ordinary people, but we also address a sensitive matter. For this reason, we had an approach that aimed to meet both of these needs. After completing the texts and visual designs in accordance with this understanding, we have shared the visuals of the dictionary during October, November and December 2017. We hope that we have accomplished an innovative memorial project that makes use of social media.

Campaign visuals

Here is a sample of 4 visuals from our campaign with English translations of the definitions. You can click on the visuals to see them on original size.


Below, you can find all the visuals we have shared on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts between 24 October and 28 December 2017.