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Norman Behrendt


© Norman Behrendt, Atasehir Mimar Sinan Mosque, completed in 2012, Atasehir, Istanbul, 2015

Brave New Turkey

2015 — 2017
Brave New Turkey is a documentation of newly built and state sponsored mosques in a Neo-Ottoman-Style in the urban landscape of Ankara and Istanbul.

 Returning Turkey to the glories and origins of its Ottoman past and ending Atatürk’s secular constitution has been one of the primary goals of Recep Erdoğan throughout his long rule of Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and now as president with growing executive powers. Thanks to the country’s economic boom, between 2010 to 2017, which was driven by cheap capital following the global financial crisis, the AKP, Erdogan`s party, has improved healthcare, urban infrastructure and prosperity, but on the other hand has made control of religious affairs a priority.

© Norman Behrendt, Minaret architect presents his portfolio infront of Yeşilova Hz. Osman Mosque, Etimesgut, Ankara, Turkey

© Norman Behrendt, İvedik Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque in construction, Yenimahalle, Ankara 2016

The Diyanet, the Directorate for Religious Affairs fulfills this role and helps to legitimize the religious backswing of Turkey since 2010. Originally created by the Turkish state to exercise oversight over religious affairs, is now firmly under the control of President Erdoğan, and has turned into a supersized government bureaucracy for the promotion of Sunni Islam. It caters only to the Muslim population; but it is indifferent to the diversity of Turkish Islam. There are about 15 million Alevis, perhaps three million Shi’a, and over a million Nusayris. And then, 12-15 million Kurds following the Shafi’i and not the Hanafi school.

© Norman Behrendt, Niyaziye Cami-i Serifi, completed 2015, Yenimahalle, Ankara, 2015

The Diyanet has become a political instrument for the government to reshape Turkey. It comments on political affairs, advises citizens on religiously acceptable conduct. It is also the main investor for thousands of the newly built mosques in Turkey and abroad. Most of them built in the imperial Ottoman style with their distinctive domes and minarets, following precisely the architectural tradition of Mimar Sinan (1490 - 1588) the master of classical Ottoman architecture. Given the influence that the Diyanet-controlled mosques have on the conservative masses across Turkey, this development is probably both among the most consequential, and among the most unknown, accomplishments of the AKP.

© Norman Behrendt, Discarded Atatürk statue, Yenimahalle, Ankara 2017

© Norman Behrendt, Urbanisation in the periphery of Etimesgut, Ankara, Turkey, 2017

Brave New Turkey reflects this phenomenon as a symbol of change and power that reaches beyond national borders. It is less about architecture in a classical sense, but rather how architecture reflects power and how ideologies are manifested in it. It reflects a newly tied compound of religious and cultural identity, against the backdrop of a constant exclusion of minorities, a reckless fight against those whose convictions are different and an unresolved question of what is Turkish identity?

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