“Torture can be an open secret in a democratic society. Apparently, successive Chicago police superintendents suppressed internal investigations that revealed torture, successive state’s attorneys knew of the torture but refused to investigate, and the state’s Felony Review Unit knowingly elicited and used tortured confessions. Approximately one-third of the current Cook County criminal court judges are former assistant state’s attorneys or Area 2 detectives who were involved in the torture cases. Courts and the public will also look the other way.” – Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy
Thrilled to announce for the first time in my life, I am being given a grant by the International Women’s Media Fund (IWMF) Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists to stay home and work. I’ll be spending the next year at least in Chicago interviewing and photographing survivors of municipal police torture under former Commander Jon Burge, who imported techniques such as electrotorture which he learned as a military police officer in Vietnam onto the streets of Chicago for nearly 20 years to force confessions from 1972 until he was suspended from the force in 1991 and fired in 1993. He later served four years for perjury but still receives a full city pension.
Very special thanks to everyone who has lent time, expertise, knowledge, and patience to this project so far, there are many of you to thank and a few of you who would rather I didn’t but know you have helped tremendously and I am filled with gratitude.
Thank you, Newsha Tavakolian for nominating me for this year’s World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. It is an honor and I am grateful.
Congrats as well to all other nominees.
UPDATE: Orwell wrote “Any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.” That said, while sad I did not get it this year, grateful to Newsha Tavakolian for the nomination, everyone who has and continues to support my work and big congrats to all the talent who did. Take this and run with it.
My heart to the victims, their friends and family as well as the people of Istanbul and Turkey after today’s suicide bombing on Istiklal Caddesi, Europe’s busiest street, a major pedestrian thoroughfare aligned with shops and restaurants that cuts through the heart of the Beyoglu district from Taksim Square to the ferry boat terminals of Karaköy. There are more bombings and senseless deaths today in the world than the imagination could have dreamt possible at the close of the last century. Often they occur far from home, but every day it seems they dream up new ways to manage to bring it ever closer to home, wherever home is. Some of us have seen our cities struck, our friends hurt, killed, maimed or disappeared into the abyss of wars and attacks of the age of terror. For me, Istiklal is close to home because it was home.
Images from my archive of Istiklal in better times showcase the avenue as at the center of political, social and economic life in Istanbul:
This image from Donald Trump’s rally in Bloomington, Illinois last Sunday was the moment my headache went through the roof and I left. Little boys film themselves taunting little girls who were being kicked out for protesting. This is a scary thing to witness when children turn against each other on the encouragement of an American presidential candidate. Today after successes in Florida, Illinois and Missouri but defeat in the critical state of Ohio to Governor John Kasich leaving open the prospect of a brokered convention, Trump threatened riots if he does not get the nomination. This is not maturity worthy of nuclear codes nor is promoting violence domestically presidential. The forces of politically motivated violence are being set in motion by a candidate whose campaign does not require him to leave the tarmac or answer questions from media beyond the scope of prearranged interviews. His rallies resemble “The Jerry Springer Show,” causing Springer himself to remark, “If they are going to do my show, they should start paying me… It’s disgraceful.”
Happy International Women’s Day! Time to remember an important one, Khadija Ismayilova, in jail, for being damn good at her job as an investigative reporter and raising mighty quantities of hell while investigating Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and family’s shady business dealings. Turns out they are looting their country! I had the privilege to work with Khadija, be challenged by Khadija, and occasionally even bullied and reminded of moral courage and moral cowardice by Khadija. She is pure quality and intellect and she is serving a 7.5 year sentence for incitement to suicide by a boyfriend who has since recanted and was at the center of an effort at sexual blackmail against Khadija that occurred four years ago to this day with the arrival of a mysterious envelope postmarked Moscow and delivering contents reflecting pure KGB tactics. She went public, just a few months before Eurovision, so they retaliated by releasing a video on a mirror site made to look like one of the opposition parties, Musavat, who would of course have no interest in such a smear. Then the state news organs and papers of the Yeni, or New, Azerbaijan Party (YAP) official organs began publishing stories about how she was a loose women. Please no illusions about the ruling Aliyev clan and “modern” Azerbaijan. Khadija is a woman of courage, conviction, intelligence and she should be free! She inspires me!
Story of Khadija’s I was lucky enough to photograph:
“Baku is Bulldozing Its Past,” EurasiaNet (April 27, 2012).
Sad to receive news that Ekrem Jevric, a viral video and Serbian “rijaliti” star of “Parovi,” died yesterday morning in America. Here he is last September in Belgrade singing me a turbofolk hit live on Serbian TV in what may have been one of the most surreal moments of my life. RIP.