A moving exhibition of photos depicting the faces of Azerbaijani Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees has gone on display in Istanbul.
The event organized by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) opened at the 14th Century Tophane-i Amire Culture and Arts Centre (Mimar Sinan University) on June 5.
More than 200 guests attended the opening of an emotionally-charged exhibition focusing on the stark faces of some of the estimated 875,000 Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs - the ongoing victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
This moving exhibition was organized by Turkish office of TEAS, and showcases the outstanding and inspirational work of the renowned German photographer Philipp Rathmer. He has previously photographed celebrities such as Michael Schumacher, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, Sophia Loren and Luciano Pavarotti.
All 50 photographs were taken in Azerbaijan in the IDP camps of Takhtakorpu and Gunzali, near the Armenian border, and Darnagul and Gizilgum, located north of Baku. Rena Rzaeva, Istanbul Representative, TEAS Turkey, posed some pertinent questions: "I would like to ask you all - have you ever been expelled from your own home? Has your land been unlawfully taken away? Have you been forced to move to another place - a place that is unknown to you? In Azerbaijan, one in nine people live as refugees and IDPs, and approximately one-fifth of Azerbaijani land remains under Armenian occupation. This has continued for over 20 years, this human tragedy unfortunately still continues, and this critical problem remains unresolved. As Azerbaijanis, we are requesting the return of our rightful lands, and seek peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."
Rathmer explained his approach to the subjects: "I aimed to represent the suffering of these people by focusing on their faces in extreme close-up. Each subject was shot in exactly the same way, against a black background, lit in indirect sunlight, emphasis being placed on capturing the faces and stories of the people. You can see the problems in their eyes and wrinkles.
"The focus was on the human situation - I noted each subject's name, age, occupation, name of the camp in which they lived and the town from which they had been displaced. They also spoke of their aspirations, one of which was common to all - they wanted to return home. The subjects were aged from six to 86 years, so some have never even seen their homeland. Their faces show the pain and suffering, but also capture their hope of returning home one day, using one of the five roads that lead to the occupied districts - one of the 'Five Roads Back Home'."
'Five Roads Back Home' has previously been shown in Berlin and Paris, but this is the first time the photographs have been displayed in Istanbul.
TEAS supports European and Azerbaijani businesses, providing a platform for organizations that wish to strengthen their existing business relationships, and a program of networking opportunities designed to develop new contacts across the regions.
TEAS operates a series of events throughout the year, including: lectures, round-table discussions, trade missions, forums and conferences including the annual TEAS Business Forum, all of which facilitate not only professional information exchange but also inter-cultural exchange.