We present an article by Ragip Zarakol, a Turkish intellectual, human rights activist, founder-director of the Belge publishing house. 

I first met Damir Senmez at the Dost bookstore in Ankara, where he was working at the time. Later, our paths always crossed in the city of Geneva, where he settled after Ankara. I visited the People’s House of Geneva, which he headed.

Together with Grant Dink, we participated in a meeting at the League of Nations. Of course, this would not have happened without Demir. For some time he worked at the Art and History Museum of Geneva. However, after a while his work was stopped.

The reason was that he was photographed with a representative of Palestine who visited Geneva, and in the official form of a museum employee.

    It was a period when Palestine had just received official recognition in the international arena. How could the mad and enthusiastic Demir restrain himself? He started shooting on the street with his camera and became a photographer of the city.

Geneva is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The League of Nations building, which was built after the First World War, is located in Geneva.

One of Demir’s exhibitions opened on the shores of Lake Geneva near Wilson’s house. And for the first time in the history of Geneva, the exhibition was “attacked.” Do you think hooliganism only happens during football? 

So it happens in politics. Now the building belongs to the UN. We can say that Geneva is the second headquarters of the UN after New York. Sometimes meetings of representatives of publications are held at the UN. I remember that Akin Berdal, Nazmi Gyur and I participated in one of the meetings in March as delegates of the International Federation of Human Rights, which is located in Paris.

Nazmi Gyur, the head of the Foreign affairs department of the People’s Democratic Party, is currently in prison. That is why the square in front of the building has become a place where the peoples of all continents of the world express their protests against the injustice committed.

Here is one of Demir Senmez’s albums, published in the form of a book, which reflects portraits of people gathered in this area. “Our Story” by photographer Halkların Fotoğrafçısı Sönmez’den ‘Bizimkilerin hikayesi’ interviewed him about this exhibition. Swiss scientist Jean Ziegler wrote in the preface to his article: “Every photo in Demir Senmez’s book evokes the same feeling – hope.”

The cover of the book depicts a portrait of a Kurdish woman in a traditional costume with a poster in her hand. 

The exhibition in front of the UN building also featured a photo of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was seriously injured and later died. He happened to pass by during a protest rally in Taksim Gezi Park, Constantinople, June 16, in 2013. It was officially ordered to delete the photo, but it was refused. 

Demir Senmez could not help but photograph the new life that began on the territory of the Kurdish administration in Iraq. One of his exhibitions was connected with this.

And his latest album is about the human tragedy of the Second Artsakh War. It is bilingual: English and French. Demir selflessly worked as a war correspondent. I hope that the region will not turn into a Caucasian “Vietnam”. One of the most striking images in the album is a photograph of a woman mourning the funeral of a Yazidi soldier.

“I felt the pain I was used to in the Kurdish land, but this time in a different geography” Demir Senmez said. In an interview with Boris Murazi, a correspondent of the newspaper Dengê Ézidî, published in Yerevan, and chairman of the “National Union of Sinjar Yezidis”, he said: “Although 1915 is known only as the genocide against the Armenians, we, the Yezidis, are also one of the greatest victims of this genocide. My family escaped from the village of Kondurak in Kars in 1915.” 

I am glad that you and your camera exist, Demir Senmez.

Ragip Zarakolu