Some people have asked to see my ‘Red Dress Girl’ story , so here it is. You’ll be disappointed to read that no, I did not interview her, but I did confirm her identity from several sources. She does not want to be interviewed since she feels uncomfortable about being an icon of the protests.
Nonetheless, she did give an interview to Radikal last weekend, here, perhaps before she had an idea of how famous her image would become.
It was a short picture-led story on the front of the foreign section today’s Times. The photograph, along with the series accompanying it, ws printed across a double page spread. Here is the slightly longer, unedited version of the story I filed:
To thousands of young Turks gathering each day in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, she is known simply as the ‘Girl in the Red Dress’.
A now infamous photo of Ceyda Sungur, an academic in city planning at Istanbul Technical University, has become the iconic image of the protests that have rocked Istanbul and other Turkish cities for five days now.
Dignified and vulnerable in her bright summer dress and with a handbag casually slung over her shoulder, she appeared the very antithesis of the ‘vagabonds’ and ‘extremists’ on whom Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the unrest.
And yet for many at the Taksim rallies, it was the image of a riot police officer spraying a jet of pepper spray into her face that drove them onto the streets in support of what started as a tiny gathering of activists fighting the redevelopment of a city park.
A Reuters photographer took the photo on the afternoon of Tuesday 28 May, when police first broke up the camp when Ms Sungur and around 50 other activists gathered at the threatened Gezi Park.
Within hours it had ricocheted across social media generating a surge of sympathy and anger on behalf of the small band of protesters.
“The Turkish media said that the protesters had attacked police, but I could see from that photo that they hadn’t attacked anyone,” said Melihcan Gokmenoglu, a 19-year-old mechanical engineering student sitting with friend in Gezi Park yesterday.
“I saw it on the Internet on Friday night, and I walked out of my dorm room and came straight here,” he said.
Ms Sungur, part of Taksim Solidarity Platform that is protesting the redevelopment of the park and square, last week told Turkish press there was nothing unusual about what happened to her.
“Every citizen defending their urban rights, every worker defending their human rights, and every student defending university rights has witnessed the police violence I experienced yesterday,” she told the Radikal newspaper.
She has since declined interviews, saying she feels uncomfortable being known as the face of the protests, said Cihan Baysal, another member of the platform.
However her image has now become a symbol of protests, replicated on posters and stickers plastered across walls.
In one cartoon version the woman appears much bigger than the policeman. “The more you spray the bigger we get”, reads the slogan next to it.