Emin Özmen (Winner)

  • Like every day since weeks, Kurdish Syrian refugees wait near the Turkish-Syrian border their families remained in Kobani. Suruc, Turkey, September 2014 In September 2014, ISIS started to attack Kobani and besieged the city on October 2014. In the town, thousands of people tried to survive. In order to escape the clashes, even children and elderly people didn’t hesitate to cross over the minefields that separate Kobani from the Turkish border. According to UNHCR, 170,000 inhabitants of Kobani took refuge in the camps in Turkey.

  • Turkish riot police use tear gas while Syrian Kurds illegally cross Turkish Syrian border in Suruc - Turkey, September 2014

  • People gathered after the twin bombings in Ankara, during the funeral in Istanbul. Two powerful bombs exploded at a peace rally near the main train station in Ankara on 10 October, killing 102 people and wounding at least 246 others in the deadliest attack in the Turkish capital in recent memory. Istanbul, Turkey, October 2015

  • Turkish soldiers stand in a cemetery during a funeral ceremony of Koray Karaca, a Turkish soldier who lost his life during the operation of Turkish security forces in Afrin (Syria). 52 Turkish soldiers lost their lives during the Olive Branch operations that began on January 2018. Istanbul, Turkey, January 2018.

  • A barricade built by members of YPS (PKK youth branch). Nusaybin, Turkey, 2015

  • A family stands near their house damaged during the fight between government troops and separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters, in the Kurdish town of Silopi, in southeastern Turkey, near the border with Iraq. After the 36 days of clashes between Turkish Special Forces and PKK & YDGH members, Turkish government announced the end of curfew, where 27 civilians died. 120 PKK and YDGH members have been killed during the 36 days of curfew by Turkish Special Forces. Silopi,Turkey, January 2016

  • A funeral for a victim of clashes between PKK and Turkish special forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey, Sirnak, Turkey, January 2016

  • A rocket hit a couple’s bedroom during the clashes between PKK and Turkish special military forces in Nusaybin Town. Fortunately, they were not in their home during the attack but the house is half destroyed and they have no other choice than to continue to live inside. Nusaybin, Turkey, December 2015

  • Parents of Kader Kulter 13, stands near her during a kidney crisis in Cefhane camp near Sirnak city. She lost a kidney three months ago and the other one needs treatment but they live far from a hospital and cannot take her there. By early 2016, 10,000 people were living in poor conditions in temporary camps around the town of Sirnak, and 350,000 people had been displaced since fighting between the PKK and security forces began in December 2015. Sirnak, Turkey, October 2016

  • Sure, 55 and her grandchild Melek stand near Cefhane camp near Sirnak city. They live in this camp since March 2016. By early 2016, 10,000 people were living in poor conditions in temporary camps around the town of Sirnak, and 350,000 people had been displaced since fighting between the PKK and security forces began in December 2015. Sirnak, Turkey, October 2016


Turkish by birth, I grew up in a culture where the Kurdish issue is ever-present and remains sensitive. Because of the deterioration of Turkey’s free press, the official state view dominates public opinion. The media tend to show the conflict in a very Manichean way. I wanted to document what was really going on. It is what I have been doing since 2014.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey and composes between 15% and 20% of the population (14 to 18 million people). Like other Turkish minorities, Kurds were subjected to Turkification policies. A unique Kurdish ethnic identity was discouraged or officially prohibited by the state until the 1990s.

In Turkey, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., NATO and the EU, has waged an insurgency against the central government on and off since 1984. The conflict in Syria complicated matters, as did internal politics in Turkey. In 2014, the arrival of the Syrian conflict at Turkey’s gates brought back the demons of the past and the situation in Turkey became tense to the point that an armed conflict broke out in 2015 within Turkey.

Indeed, in July 2015, the insurgency entered one of its deadliest chapters; a devastating conflict has unfolded in the urban centers of Southeastern Turkey. Kurdish civilians found themselves hostages of a 30-year-old conflict that has already took the lives of over 40,000 people. Young Kurdish militants seized control of neighborhoods in towns. The Turkish military placed entire cities under 24-hour curfews and shelled residential areas, destroying more than 6,000 buildings and displacing more than 350,000 people. More than 3,000 people have died in the clashes, including at least 437 civilians.

If the conflict has subsided since 2017, I still worry about the long-term polarization of my country along ethnic fault lines, as children and teenagers in southeastern Turkey feel more and more disconnected from Turkey. I fear seeing the radicalization of the young people in this region – a new generation of Kurds, traumatized, growing with anger, in a revenge spirit. What will be the consequences in a few years?