Istanbul's "Silent Dancer" wins the M100 Media Award


If someone is standing around somewhere in a large square, alone, silent, hands in trouser pockets, it's not necessarily obvious.

However, if this square has been the background to massive protests for days and at least the foreign press has become aware of the social networks, things can look completely different: Erdem Gündüz, who became known as "The Silent Dancer" on June 18, 2013, has stayed for a while Hours immobile in the middle of Istanbul's Taksim, gazing at the giant Turkish flags at the Ataturk Cultural Center, before police officers in the square realized the lone man in the white shirt must be a protester. For about eight hours he had stared at the portrait of the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

ataturk stiller taenzer 5Most of us probably remember only too well when the pictures of the standing man "#duranadam" went around the world, suddenly giving the protest of dissatisfied Turkish citizens a completely new face. Other Istanbul citizens quickly understood that standing silently had to be a new form of protest and did the same.

The police officers, who then became aware, rushed over and searched the silent dancer's backpack, but found nothing suspicious. The quiet dancer became an idol within a few hours, especially via Twitter: "I protest against the speechlessness of the Turkish media and the violence of the police," Gündüz told eyewitnesses.

ataturk stiller taenzer 1But who is this Erdem Gündüz, who is now supposed to receive the M100 Media Award from Germany? Born in 1979 in Ankara, he studied in the years 1996 - 2002 in the departments of Electricity and Agriculture at the Aegean University of Izmir, then switched to the Yıldız Teknik Üniversitesi in the field of art, design, music and dance in 2003. From 2007, an exchange program was followed by participation in a course at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the USA. A year later he attended a course in "ImPulsTanz" at the Vienna International Dance Festival in Vienna. In 2008 he graduated with a Master of Performing Arts from Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul. Today, Erdem Gündüz is a Turkish artist, dancer and choreographer.

When several hundred people lined up next to Gündüz on June 18, the police began to take some people away. The artist ended his performance after about eight hours. Before that, he had asked the imitators to leave. This is an action "for one person only," said a friend of Gündüz on Twitter. John Lennon would have called this a "stand-in," said an Istanbul journalist. Others recalled the poem by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, from which every Turkish schoolchild already knows the lines: "To live, alone and free like a tree, and brotherly like a forest, that is my longing."

ataturk stiller taenzer 3Gündüz was also unable to prevent individuals from standing for hours not only on Taksim Square but also in many other places in Turkey, often in symbolic places: in Ankara, where a young demonstrator met during the more than two-week protests against the government was fatally injured; in front of the hotel in the city of Sivas where 37 people died in an arson attack exactly 20 years ago; and on Istanbul Street, where Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was murdered in 2007.

This form of peaceful protest caused a worldwide sensation, which the police simply had to tolerate, since there was no basis for intervening. It is the type of protest that is now being honored with the prize: "With his silent protest, he became an icon of peaceful resistance and found imitators worldwide," said the Advisory Board of the M100 Committee, who thus made the "courageous commitment to freedom of expression and human rights” of the 34-year-old dancer and choreographer.

ataturk stiller taenzer 4“His weapon is creativity. His trademarks are courage and perseverance. And you need all of that if you stand up for freedom of expression and human rights,” said Jann Jakobs, M100 chairman and mayor of Potsdam. Another clear sign that non-violent peaceful resistance can also prove to be very successful.

The award ceremony of the international Potsdam Media Forum M100 will take place on September 5, 2013 in the Raffael Hall under this year's motto "Are the media destroying Europe?" in Pottsdam-Sanssouci. In previous years, the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who created the controversial images of the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Doctors Without Borders, the former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi had already received awards.

The non-endowed prize is awarded every year to a person who has left their mark on the world through their work or appearance. The focus is on protecting freedom of expression and consolidating democratic principles. Extraordinary achievements in European understanding and communication are also included in the evaluation with regard to the award of the prize. The M100 Media Award this year for the "standing man, #duranadam" Erdem Gündüz, who showed that one can also demonstrate absolutely non-violently.

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