Lady in the Red Dress and her dream of a Turkish rebirth
With her red cotton dress, white shoulder bag and flowing black hair, she has become the colour-coded emblem of Turkey's new people-power movement.
Caught on camera as she was sprayed head to toe in tear gas, Ceyda Sungur's treatment at the hands of Istanbul's riot police seemed the epitome of using a "sledgehammer to crack a nut" and encapsulated the government's heavy-handed response to a civilised protest.
Pictures of the "Lady in the Red Dress" quickly spread around the world via the internet. Those who shared the pictures online joined protesters in demanding to know why a woman who looked attired for a summer picnic had been treated like a masked, brick-throwing anarchist.
Last week, Ms Sungur said she was a reluctant heroine, describing herself as just part of a wider grass-roots movement, and pointing out in brief remarks to a Turkish newspaper that hundreds of others had been gassed in similar fashion.
Now, though, having declined requests for interviews from all over the world, Ms Sungur, an academic, has spoken briefly but vividly to The Sunday Telegraph about her involvement in what happened, and how she is now working in a makeshift clinic to help others hurt in demonstrations.
"For me this is about freedom of speech and the power of the people," said Ms Sungur, who was left choking for breath after the gas attack.
"Now people have, for the first time, the self-confidence to reclaim their power. They have the self-confidence to change everything."
The photos of Ms Sungur set off a major escalation of the protests, which have pitted Turkey's secular middle class against what they see as an increasingly authoritarian Islamist government.
So far three people have been killed and nearly 1,000 admitted to hospital, as the demonstrations have spread across the country.
As well as being shared via Facebook, Twitter and other social media, Ms Sungur's image has become a permanent part of the protest landscape, appearing as a cartoon on posters, stickers and banners.
Protesters in the city of Izmir have even turned the image into a fairground-style billboard, where demonstrators can poke their head through a hole where her face is and posing for pictures.
Keen to keep out of the limelight, Ms Sungur, meanwhile, is continuing to work behind the scenes, volunteering at an improvised field hospital in Taksim Square, the epicentre of the Istanbul protests.
"We have created field stations on Taksim Square where we look after people who have been injured," she said, declining to specify further details for fear that the volunteer doctors might be arrested.
Ms Sungur works in the planning department of Istanbul's Technical University, a faculty not normally seen as a hotbed of radical politics.
She had little inkling of the anti-government revolt she was about to unleash when she and a group of architect friends first joined a sit-in to stop bulldozers moving in on Gazi Park, a small patch of green in Taksim Square.
Those friends described to The Sunday Telegraph their shock at what happened next. "Ceyda texted me to get to the park," said Meriç Demir, 28. "Ten to 15 minutes later when we arrived she was yelling from the effect of the tear gas.
"We were so surprised. Some of us began yelling, 'we are academics, stop this!' Some tried to help Ceyda. We were shocked because you don't even spray insects in your home in such a direct way."
On paper, the protest was little more than an impassioned planning dispute, with a group of environmentalists opposing a government-backed project for an ambitious redevelopment of the area.
Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insisted the redevelopment would be a massive improvement, with a new shopping centre, a pedestrianised zone, an opera house, a cultural centre and a mosque.
But critics said that as well as involving the demolition of Gazi Park – one of the few green "lungs" in the area – it would amount to a creeping "Islamisation" of central Istanbul. In addition to the mosque, the plans included rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks that was the scene of a failed Islamist military uprising in 1909.
Protesters also claimed the decision to press ahead was made without proper public consultation, which they said epitomised Mr Erdogan's high-handed, authoritarian style.
As such, when the police moved in to clear the protesters – and Ms Sungur's ordeal was conveyed to the wider world – the protest mushroomed into a much wider expression of popular discontent.
In Taksim Square, which has since been occupied completely by demonstrators, a wide range of grievances can be heard.
Many complain about the government's recent decision to ban alcohol sales between 10pm and 6am and from shops close to schools and mosques. Others are angry at recent attempts to ban kissing in the streets.
"You cannot touch everyone's lives like this. Erdogan's policies are too invasive," said Ms Demir. "It's not even about the alcohol. This is about respect."
Taksim Square is also a traditional rallying point for secular Turks, whose spiritual leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, made the country a civil state nearly a century ago, viewing Islamic rule as a brake on the country's development.
"Taksim is a symbol of the Turkish Ataturk revolution," said Prof Handan Turkoglu, 57, Ms Sungur's department head, who has launched a petition protesting against Mr Erdogan's plans and was herself tear-gassed with her students.
For its signatories, the battle against the development is now a metaphor for the fight over the state of the nation; a fight to stop Turkey's secular democracy turning into a system where the lines between religion and state are blurred.
During more than a decade in power Mr Erdogan has determinedly dragged Turkey away from the aggressively secular, anti-religious dictatorship of Ataturk in the 1920s. So confident is he that he seemed at one point to be identifying himself with the Ottoman emperors, calling one of his newly built mosques Selatin, meaning a religious building constructed at the request of a sultan.
He has since gone further, announcing a new bridge over the Bosphorus to be called the Yavuz Sultan Selim. Sultan Selim the Grim is particularly reviled by a substantial Turkish minority, the Alevis, for his brutality towards them during a 16th-century war with the Persian empire.
Mr Erdogan's political success has made him an ambiguous character for both Turkey's traditional friends in the West and his own people. The West welcomes his liberal economic reforms – obedient to diktats from the International Monetary Fund – which have empowered businessmen and seen the economy triple in size.
But many of those businessmen are close to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and are socially conservative, backing his attempts to encourage religious norms such as the hijab, women's headscarves, and restrictions on alcohol. They are also changing the face of many of Turkey's cities with modern, some say garish, Gulf-style developments like that planned for Taksim.
The West has meanwhile supported Mr Erdogan's close involvement in the Syrian rebel cause – dominated by Sunni Muslims, the majority creed in Turkey – but it has not been so popular at home, where it has been seen to drag the country into a war many feel is none of its business.
The main issue, though, has become Mr Erdogan's personal style of leadership: confident to the point of cocky, and clear in his view that three landslide election victories, most recently in 2011, have given him a mandate to push through his vision.
It is the air of personal invincibility that wins him passionate support among his rural base but also stirs so much resentment among the secular, liberal demonstrators in Taksim Square.
They accuse him of running a tyranny of the majority, ignoring the 49 per cent who did not vote for him in the last election.
"Yes I know the prime minister is elected by half the country," said Ms Demir. "But there is another half of the country who also want to be listened to as well."
Ozgur Ogret, a freelance journalist and analyst, said Mr Erdogan's policies were making those loyal to Turkey's modern secular customs feel "what the Kurds have been facing for decades, and the kind of suppression that Muslims were subjected to [under Ataturk]."
Protesters in Taksim and in more than 67 cities across the country say Mr Erdogan has misunderstood what democracy means in the modern day, except for the crude fact of winning elections.
Most protesters are realistic enough to know that, despite the banners and graffiti calling for him to resign, this is unlikely to happen, and that he may still win the next election, but they are saying democracy must also take into account the attitudes of the minority.
They also object to creeping encroachment on press and other freedoms, which has also been criticised by international human rights groups.
"Cities need green open spaces, breathing gaps. It shouldn’t be a source of conflict between the government and the citizens. It’s a delicate matter about human rights and public benefit," said Eren Kurkcuoglu, an architect. "That’s what we’re trying to teach our students, now they experience it very well. We have to be careful and watch our sentences. But government too has to be careful in how to treat us."
Back on Taksim Square yesterday, the protests continued. A decision to withdraw the police has given the square a feel of a summertime British music festival, with tents, food stalls and drummers.
Mr Erdogan, who has dismissed the demonstrators as "a few looters" backed by extremists, was also meeting his advisers to plan his next steps. He still insists he has the country on his side.
The Lady in Red will be observing closely and sternly.
"In Istanbul, I have watched people stop a Metro in its tracks when they need to get on it," she said.
"That is like the power people feel now. They have the self-confidence to change everything."
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