Piero Castellano Piero Castellano

Piero Castellano is an independent journalist and photographer currently based in Turkey. He specializes in street photography, new media activism, civil rights and human stories on wider political, social, or economic backgrounds. He has worked on historical research (archaeology, art heritage), local traditions (typical food, ethnic gastronomy, craftsmanship) and sea-related topics (boat building and restoration, yacht racing, seafaring traditions). Due to close contact with people he meet in his work, Castellano pays special attention to social and economic issues in depressed areas, including those regarding displaced people, urban refugees, neglected suburbs and craftsmen in disappearing professions. He has worked in countries across the globe, including Italy, Spain, Egypt, French Polynesia, Pitcairn, Easter Island, Chile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Greece and Turkey. He writes in Italian and English, understands and speaks Spanish and French, and knows enough Turkish to live there. He is currently covering political and social issues in Turkey.

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Christian Roots: Turkey's Dwindling C...
Izmir
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

Izmir, Turkey

The largest community of the smallest Christian minority in Turkey has felt neglected for decades and is now facing an uncertain future. The recent visit of Pope Francis to Turkey reinforced anxieties within Izmir's catholic community as he was the first Pope not to visit the tiny but important diocese. Although he had announced his wish to visit the House of Mary in Ephesus, like his predecessors, security problems at the remote shrine made it impossible. Catholics in Izmir are well aware of security problems, but nonetheless they bitterly feel that they are the collateral victims of sectarian tensions in the region.

The history of Christianity in Turkey is almost as old as the Church itself. St. Paul was a native of Anatolia and preached in Ephesus and Miletus. Jesus’ favorite apostle, St. John, the Evangelist who wrote the Apocalypse, is said to have moved to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary. The Apostle’s tomb is near the Ephesus archaeological site and an enormous basilica was built on it. It is ironic that the most vocal opponents of Turkey’s accession to European Union used the “Christian roots” of Europe as an argument against it; the roots of christianity are all in Turkey. It was in Ephesus that the Third Ecumenical Council, the famous “Theotokos Council”, confirmed the Nicene Creed on which the Roman Catholic doctrine is still based, and which declared the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”. Despite this rich history, it is ironic that such Christian roots are usually overlooked in Turkey.

It is commonly said that Turks are 99% Sunni Muslim, and it is true that Turkey’s religious policy take it as a fact. While Orthodox, Armenian and Chaldean Christians are recognized as indigenous religious minorities, the Latin Catholic Christians are not. There are about 35,000 Catholics in Turkey. Most of them are so-called “Levantines”, or descendants of French or Italian expatriates who settled in Ottoman Empire. Izmir, the ancient Smyrna, was their most important city, and it was the most cosmopolitan city in Turkey.

Izmir’s most popular Catholic Church is the Dominican Church of the Holy Rosary, in the traditionally Levantine district of Alsancak. Every Thursday Father Stefano Negro, the parish priest, holds mass for a meager audience of elders.

“It was very different, when the Church was built in 1904,” tells the Dominican friar, a keen historian of his adopted city. “The Church was crowded and rich, because the parishioners considered it a symbol of their identity.

The Great Fire of Smyrna, in 1922, changed everything, along with the birth of the Turkish Republic. However, the turning point was in 1934, when foreigners were not allowed to work anymore in Turkey.” The skilled workers and entrepreneurs who had helped to make Izmir the economic capital of the Ottoman Empire emigrated, and the Catholic flock of Izmir began to dwindle.

The remaining Levantines are descendants of Italian or French families, and all of them feel uncomfortable in the “New Turkey” of President Erdogan. In the traditionally secular republic there was room for many minorities, but the Islamist rhetoric of the current ruling party is underscoring more and more the Sunni Muslim character of the Turkish State.

“This is not my church,” a lady in her 60's whispers before Father Stefano’s mass. “I was born in Karsiyaka, and I went to St. Helen’s Church. It was always open, and on St. Helen’s Day we could bring our cross in procession in the streets and everybody in the neighborhood celebrated with us. Now it’s impossible [and] we keep a low profile, should we irk religious zealots that are increasingly sensitive...”

Another lady, also in her 60s, comments bitterly that “Turkey is going back in time”. However, the others disagree staunchly. “It’s not true, it was never like this! This is something new, especially in Izmir, and it’s not, like some say, because of immigration from the East”.”Truth is,” the first woman comments “that Turks are angry at Europe. They are angry because they feel rejected. They see Islamophobia rising in the same Europe that keeps closing its doors as a Christian club. So they [Turks[] turn to their religious identity and don’t like us anymore.” The lady, who asks not to be mentioned by name, was born in Izmir, in the elegant Karsiyaka district. When she got married she move to Italy, where she lives with her children and grandchildren. Despite this, she keeps coming to her “hometown”, as she calls it, for several months a year. “But every time it’s more difficult” she laments.

Father Stefano, who came to Turkey in 1976, mostly agrees with the lady. When the military junta ruling the country after the 1980 coup started a fiercely nationalistic policy, the Catholic clergy was seriously worried they would be expelled. To be able to stay, Father Stefano managed to acquire the Turkish citizenship. “But I often have problems," he explains. "Now, every time the police check my ID, they argue about my religion indicated on it. ‘If you are really a Turk, how come that you are not a Sunni Muslim?’”

Things have worsened under Erdogan, with his religious and nationalist rhetoric centered on the Sunni identity of the country. Father Stefano, a witty friar with a sharp humor, turns sad when he talks about the size of his flock. “I can see them dwindle from the number of funerals I celebrate. It’s clear in the mass, where worshipers are all with white hair. There are weddings, sure, but most of them are mixed ones, and children have to be educated in public schools, where religion classes are mandatory, and of course we talk of Sunni religion [in the religious classes].” There are some newcomers to the church, most of whom are Catholic families of NATO military base personnel or technicians working in Izmir.

If the mass is attended by white haired, depressed worshipers, the atmosphere is completely different at the Italian school of Alsancak. Alsancak is an international elementary school and Turkish private kindergarten, managed by Italian nuns and secular teachers, both Italian and Turkish. Sister Roberta also has grey hair, well visible since religious dress is banned in schools, but she has the energy and high spirit of an elite soldier. “We don’t care of habits, we don’t need habits. We are the habits, we are nuns, even when we don’t dress as such” she proudly declares.

The kindergarten children are a merry mixed bunch, from Turkish, Italian, Spanish or American families. They are taught Italian language, but the education is strictly secular. However, Turkish citizens, even those with dual citizenship, cannot attend the elementary school. Only foreign children can continue their education in the nuns’ school and many families resent this. Sister Roberta shows a gift from a local tycoon, a container shipping business magnate, who says to own his success to the education he got at the Catholic nuns’ school.

Sister Roberta cameto Turkey in 1976, like Father Stefano, and she has seen hard times too. Despite various hardships she claims that nuns are highly respected for the education they give in the school, which in better times also hosted orphans and poor children. “We have always been here, since 1887, and we will stay.” After the 1922 fire, when all the foreign nationals had been evacuated on western warships, the youngest nun of the school volunteered to go back, soon followed by others, who kept the catholic presence in Izmir alive. However, Sister Roberta is bitterly disappointed that the Pope didn't come. “Of course we understand the security reasons, and God knows these are hard times. But it’s a bad omen, when it is too dangerous for the Catholic Pope to visit Izmir and the House of Mary in Ephesus.”

Many share her disappointment, and some are in disbelief. On the hill near Ephesus, where the House of Mary attracts pilgrims and tourists, a little crowd are waiting, in vain, for a surprise. “We hoped to see Pope Francis. He’s famous to change program at the last moment, maybe he will come here too. Why he didn't come? We don’t understand!” says the mother of a young boy who is busy lighting candles for the Virgin. They are from Izmir, but they are not Catholic: “We are Turks, we are Muslims and we are proud to be both.” she smiles “But of course we love Meryem Ana, Mother Mary!”

Maybe the dwindling Catholic community in Izmir and the cherished “Christian roots” of Europe could be the key to unlock both Turkey’s accession to Europe and the future of all its minorities.

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The Kurdish 'Saturday Mothers'
Istanbul
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2014

October 18, 2014
Istanbul, Turkey

For 299 Saturdays Ersoy Tan, a 41 year old Turkish journalist from Istanbul, has photographed the same thing: protest held by the mothers of Kurdish men who disappeared during Turkey's 'Dirty War' against the Kurdish PKK in the 1980's and 1990's. His photos of Turkey’s dark legacy can help to explain its puzzling attitude over the fate of a Kurdish border town in Syria, sieged by ISIS terrorists while the world holds its breath.

Every Saturday a group of women, some in black, some in traditional Kurdish attire, gather at noon on the iconic Galatasaray square, in Istanbul. Each woman carries a placard with a portrait, a name, and a date: that of their children or husbands, with the date when they were arrested by security forces or snatched by unknown men in civilian clothes. Many of them were never seen again, the others were found dead, some with signs of torture.

“Most people don’t know what really happened. I didn’t know. But peace is the only solution, and to have peace we have to seek Justice.” The 498th meeting was focused on the ongoing siege of the Syrian-Kurdish town, with a press statement urging its relief. On October 25th, the 500th meeting will be a huge demonstration.

Ersoy will be there: “We want to make sure that everybody knows what happened, and that it will never happen again.”

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The Lake Avernus Vineyards
Pozzuoli
By Piero Castellano
15 Oct 2014

Pozzuoli, Italy

October 15, 2014

While Italy is caught in a seemingly endless economic recession, some people are finding success by turning their backs to the disappointments of modern jobs and reverting to agriculture and traditional activities.

In Pozzuoli, near Naples, a crater lake that ancient Romans considered to be the gate to the Underworld has become the entryway to a new life for descendants of sharecropping farmers, turned producers of amazing wines.

Lake Avernus, one of the many craters of Phlegraean Fields (“Campi Flegrei”, “Burning Fields”) volcano, was so deadly in ancient times that birds flying over it were said to fall dead because of poisonous fumes. An oracle, the Cumaean Sybil, lived in a cave by the lake, and prophesized while intoxicated by exhalations. Later, the Romans used it as a training base for their warships, building temples and thermal baths on the hot springs, the ruins of which still dot the crater. In September 1538 CE a sudden eruption, lasting just one month, raised a new 133-meter tall crater, the Monte Nuovo (“New Mountain”) on the eastern side of the lake. Less than 4 kilometers away, the still active Solfatara crater is a tourist attraction, with its sulfurous fumaroles.

Today, the Lake Avernus area is a lavish green oasis that lies in amid a heavily urbanized area, although sometimes mysterious bubbling kills scores of fish. Joggers and cyclists trail around the lake and on holidays families from nearby Naples flock to the area, part of the natural park “Parco Regionale dei Campi Flegrei”.

Thanks to the fertile volcanic soil and Mediterranean climate, the region is famous for its varietal wines, produced under the Campi Flegrei D.O.C. appellation (“Denominazione di Origine Controllata”, Controlled Designation of Origin). Almost half of the surface inside the Avernus crater is covered with vineyards.

Like much of the Italian farmland, it was neglected and gradually abandoned for decades because farming was not lucrative enough.
For the larger part of the 20th century, Italian governments pursued an industrial development strategy in the region. All that remains of it are an abandoned steel mill that stretches over an enormous area near Naples and an empty information technology facility in Pozzuoli.

Emilio Mirabella and Umberto Guardascione were both children of unrelated families farming vineyards in Lake Avernus, the aristocratic owner of which lived far away and seldom visited it.

Predictably, both Umberto and Emilio chose jobs and ways of life different than those of their parents: while Emilio was fascinated by the sea and became a sailing yacht skipper, Umberto was an electronic technician.

They were doing well, but just before the economic crisis started to ravage the Italian economy, both of them received a call from their respective parents. The owner wanted to sell the land and they were asking for their children’s help to buy it and farm it on their own.

They faced a tough dilemma. Either they let their parents down by abandoning the town where they were born and raised or they had to give up their careers and everything they had done. Emilio had just gotten married and his wife had soon discovered she had seasickness. After a brief heart-wrenching discussion, they decided to sell the boat and buy his father’s share of the land.

“I miss the sea,” the sailor turned winemaker confides. “But this lake is like a small Mediterranean. Here is everything I could wish for.”

For Umberto the choice was easier: “I always loved farming the land and making wine – especially making wine. When I was a boy it wasn’t possible to make a living with it, but when my father called I saw a great opportunity.”

Times had changed indeed and Italian winemaking had gained worldwide appreciation, becoming lucrative and popular. In post-industrial times, the Phlegraean Fields area was trying to preserve what was left of its farming, winemaking and typical food traditions.

The trend led to a rediscovery of farming culture, which included traditional music and dances. Until the 19th century, croppers harvested grapes to the sound of improvising bands. As in many other agricultural societies around the world, the harvest season was also a time for courting. Musicians, who were mostly farmers or croppers themselves, played the romantic “Canti della Vendemmia” (“Harvest Songs”) and were paid with wine.

The winemakers of Lake Avernus are trying to revive these traditions, inviting folk music bands to perform in the vineyards, at the banquets they host and during the harvest.
Meanwhile, the former croppers, now neighbors, began a slow but successful improvement of the vineyard and the wines with the help of professional oenologists.
The vineyards of Lake Avernus have a rare distinction: they are some of the very few wines in the world that survived the devastating “Phylloxera Plague” of mid-19th century, which wiped out most of Europe’s vineyards. The sandy, sulfuric soil of the volcanic crater was too resistant for the vine-killing aphids.

“A few plants were affected, but most survived,” Emilio Mirabella explains.

Both the Mirabella and the Guardascione Vineyards can sport the appellative “historical,” and for a good reason.

“Unlike almost all the vineyards in Europe, we do not need to graft the plants on American vines, to make them resistant to Phylloxera,” he added. Ungrafted vines can live much longer.

“We have been visited by officials from the regional authority recently. They counted more than 1,900 historical plants, some of which are them 150 years old,” Umberto Guardascione, who owns the oldest surviving part of the original vineyard, said proudly.

Lake Avernus wine production is very small; Emilio only produces 4,000 bottles per year and Umberto sells his wine mostly to locals. But both have bigger plans. While Emilio is restoring one of the buildings to offer accommodation, like a real “agriturismo” destination, Umberto has finally accomplished his dream of obtaining a restaurant license to offer his homemade food to visitors.
But the fight through the quagmires of Italian bureaucracy has been exhausting.
“Bureaucracy is the real problem for economy in Italy,” Umberto complains. “After I worked hard to comply with thousands of regulations, an inspector claimed that I was disposing waste frying oil into the lake. In spite of contract and records with a disposal company, I had to pay for a report to prove my regularity.”

Umberto, however, will not give up.

“We will go on. We owe it to our ancestors; we owe it to the land,” he said. “After all, this place has produced wine for thousands of years, nothing could stop us - not even volcanoes.”

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Turkey's Mathematics Utopia Village
Sirince
By Piero Castellano
28 Aug 2014

July-August 2014
Sirince, Turkey

Şirince (pr. Shee-rin-jay) is a picturesque village on a hill only a few kilometers from the ancient Turkish town of Ephesus. Here, far away from the tourist crowds, a group of eccentric intellectuals have fulfilled a utopian dream: a village completely devoted to the study of mathematics.

Volunteer teachers, including some foreigners, give classes following strict schedules and programs. The pupils range from high school students to PhD level university scholars. They all seek the quiet and comfort of the village to help further their craft.

Some students live in tents, others in double rooms or small dorms in stone houses. It is mandatory to help to wash dishes, cook, do laundry and clean. Turkish families are very protective of their kids and most of the younger guests, especially boys, have to learn here how to live on their own in the village.

A small staff helps with the management of the Village. Some receive accommodation and a small salary, and others are volunteers. Miri, a blonde 32 year old interior architect from Antalya, comes every summer to work at the village. “I have a job but to come here is better than vacation. I help to build something different to improve the world” she says. A spirit of mission is pervading the place: Miri’s task is to help with further planning and construction of the expanding village.

However, politics are now threatening the future of the village. Private schools are widespread in Turkey as public schools are not good enough to equip students for university. However, the ruling AKP has been clamping down on private schools in a push that some say is designed to increase government control of education. Nesin is now facing pressure from the authorities.

Sivan Nişanyan, the architect of Armenian descent who planned most of the village, was recently sentenced to 2 years in jail for building an 'illegal' house next to the village. However, many claim the sentence was only an excuse to punish the controversial entrepreneur, who managed to upset both local Kemalist elites criticizing Atatürk, and the ruling AKP by insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Illegal building is indeed an incredibly widespread offense in Turkey and it is rarely prosecuted. The village was built in absence of urban regulation and has now been deemed illegal and could be destroyed.

Ali Nesin doesn’t seem shaken by the prospective. “If we are not protected by the Law, we will be protected by our popularity. We are a non-profit organization, the Village activity is funded by sponsor and donations and we ended with a loss every summer. We are looking for support from TUBITAK [Turkey’s scientific research agency] and even UNESCO. Bureaucracy makes hard to ask funds from European agencies.”

The names of the sponsors are inscribed on a wall in one of the “squares” of the Village. The funds are collected through the Nesin Foundation, a charity organization founded by Mr. Nesin’s father, the famous writer and humorist Aziz Nesin, to provide education for poor children. The land where the Village has been built was donated to the foundation by Mr. Nişanyan. Although a fee is required to enlist into the Village’s summer school, Mr. Nesin claims proudly that “nobody has ever been rejected for economic reasons,” following the foundation’s spirit.

“We are receiving too many applications, so we are demanding a motivation letter to make sure that highly motivated students will have priority. Even so, we don’t have enough room to accept all applicants. Some students are coming from abroad, but we have far too many requests from Turkey to really open the Village to International students as we would like. And the success of the Mathematics Village has encouraged us to start a new project, the Philosophers Village, on the nearby hill.” Ali explains as he interrupts briefly to scold a group of students chatting too loudly. “We need to keep this place like a sanctuary.”

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Turkish Winemakers Suffer as Erdogan ...
Urla
By Piero Castellano
18 Aug 2014

Urla, Turkey

Turkish wines are the latest and most promising appearance on the international wine market. However, the conservative policies of Islamist inspired Prime Minister Recip Erdogan have placed increasing restrictions on alcohol consumption and distribution. As a result, the burgeoning Turkish wine industry now faces its biggest challenge yet.

Bilge and Reha Ogunlu are a successful Turkish-American couple who abandoned their comfortable life in Ann Arbor, Michigan to become winemakers in their native Turkey. Pursuing their lifelong dream of winemaking, they sold their Michigan house in the early 2000’s, before the real estate bubble burst, and bought land in Urla, a small town in western Turkey’s Izmir province. They then established their vineyard, which they named Urlice, and began producing quality wines.

However, just as Bilge and Reha were making a name for themselves as wine producers, Recip Erdogan’s Islamist inspired Justice and Development Party began interfering in the wine industry. Along with a new economic path ironically similar to that of the pre-2008 United States, characterized by exponential growth of shopping malls and an inflating real estate bubble, Erdogan promoted an increasingly restrictive policy on alcohol consumption.

Purportedly, the restrictions are intended to protect public health by staving off alcohol addiction. However, the average Turk consumes only about 1.6 liters of alcohol per year, the lowest rate in Europe. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Turks claim not to drink at all. Regardless, yearly tax hikes have made wine more and more expensive, curtailing the interest of potential consumers. In 2013, a new law banned any kind of advertising for any alcoholic beverage, outlawing even wine fairs and wine tastings. Now, Bilge and Reha fear for the future of their dream winery as Erdogan’s power in Turkey remains strong and his anti-alcohol policies show no sign of abating.

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State Funeral in Ankara 18
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

A captain commanding the honor guard waits for the funeral parade of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK. He has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 17
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers carry wreaths sent by government officials ahead of the funeral parade for Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK. He has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 16
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers carry wreaths sent by government officials ahead of the funeral parade for Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK. He has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 15
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers carry the coffin and portrait of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 14
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers carry the coffin and portrait of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 10
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

The mother of fallen colonel is helped towards the Kocatepe mosque. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 13
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

A sign reads "Area for Relatives of the deceased" during the funeral of of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 12
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Workers arrange the wreath sent by the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in honor of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK. He has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 11
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Workers carry the wreath by Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be placed next to the one sent by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in honor of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK. He has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 09
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

A navy non-commissioned officer directs workers arranging the Turkish Armed Forces' wreaths in front of Kocatepe mosque. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 08
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers of the honor guard march ahead of the funeral parade of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 07
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers stand by the coffin of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 06
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Soldiers carrying the coffin of Colonel Ihsan Ejdar march in front of his mourning family. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 05
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

A soldier carries the portrait of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 04
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Turkish military commanders and politicians wait for the funeral parade of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 03
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Turkish military commanders and politicians wait for the funeral parade of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 02
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Turkish military commanders and politicians wait for the funeral parade of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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State Funeral in Ankara 01
Ankara
By Piero Castellano
18 Oct 2015

Officers and non-commissioned Officers of the four armed forces of Turkey wait for the coffin of Army Lieutenant Colonel Ihsan Ejdar, 43, killed in combat with outlawed PKK, and who has been laid to rest with a State funeral at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on October 18, 2015.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 21 of 21
İsa Bey Mh., 2013. Sokak No:1, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A group of religious tourists observes an inscription in memory of the visit of Pope Paul VI, in 1967, among the ruins of St. John’s Basilica in Ephesus, about 100 km from Izmir. Though Izmir Catholics are well aware of security problems, especially with the current turmoil on Turkish borders, they show bitter disappointment for the cancellation of the Papal visit, feeling once more neglected by the rest of the Christian world.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 19 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A Turkish Muslim family lights candles outside of the “Meryem Ana Evi”, the “House of the Virgin Mary” in Ephesus. Like many others, they had come to the holy site hoping to see the Pope, despite the fact he had cancelled his trip to Izmir. Pope Francis is known to randomly change plans and this family was hoping for a surprise change of program.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 20 of 21
İsa Bey Mh., 2013. Sokak No:1, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A pilgrim prays on the tomb of the Apostle John, the Evangelist who wrote the Book of Revelation, also known as Apocalypse. The tomb was at the center of the enormous basilica dedicated to St. John. The Church of Ephesus was one of the “Seven Churches of Asia” mentioned in the Apocalypse. However, after the city was destroyed by an earthquake, it declined in favor of the Church of Izmir, the last survivor of the Seven.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 17 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

The “Meryem Ana Evi”, “House of Mother Mary”, on a hill near the ancient city of Ephesus. The place was visited by Pope Paul VI in 1967, by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and by Pope Benedict XVI, but security concerns forced Pope Francis to break the tradition, for the Izmir Catholics’ dismay.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 18 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A silver statuette of the Virgin near the “Meryem Ana Evi”, the “House of Mother Mary”, with the prayer to the Virgin by Saint Francis of Assisi. Respected in all theIslamic world for being the mother of Prophet Isa (known as Jesus to Christians), “Mother Mary” is especially revered in Turkey, where motherhood is highly respected.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 14 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

The words “God loved the World so much to give his only son so that none who believes in him would come to any harm” are inscribed, in Turkish, on the left side in the interior of the Izmir Cathedral.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 15 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

Dedication of a stained glass window in Izmir Cathedral, offered by a French parishioner. Izmir Catholic community is the largest in Turkey, and the Cathedral is the seat of the only archdiocese of Turkey, covering all the south western Anatolian provinces. The current Archbishop, Ruggero Franceschini, was previously Vicar in Antakya. His successor, Msgr. Luigi Padovese, was slain and beheaded by his Turkish driver, apparently a deranged man, who some said was a religious fanatic.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 16 of 21
Efes Harabeleri, 35920 İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

Religious tourists among the ruins of the Saint Mary Church, in the archaeological site of Ephesus. This church was the place where the Third Ecumenical Council proclaimed the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”, in AD 431. The Virgin Mary is said to have moved to Ephesus with John the Evangelist, after her son’s crucifixion.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 12 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

A flight of starlings over the St. John’s Cathedral in Izmir. The Church was built in 1863, thanks to a donation of 11,000 gold Turkish lira by then Sultan Abdulaziz. However, nowadays’s Turkish politicians have sent contradictory signals: while the government has promised that Christian students would have their own religion classes, a Minister claimed that “Christianity is no longer a religion, but a culture.”

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 13 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

Two Catholic women pray at the Virgin Mary altar in Izmir’s St. John’s Cathedral. The women have their head covered while in the Church, as per the Levantine tradition. Though the Cathedral is dedicated to the Apostle St. John the Evangelist, buried in nearby Ephesus, devotion for the Virgin Mary is very popular, even among Muslims.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 11 of 21
Donanmacı Mh., 1728. Sokak 55-67, 35480 İzmir/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

The Saint Helen Church lies in the Karsiyaka neighborhood of Izmir.

A Levantine lady, who moved to Italy, but spends several months every year in her father's house in Karsiyaka, remembers that when she was a kid, the cross was carried in a public procession in the neighborhood and it was celebrated and respected by everybody, regardless of their religion. "But today it would be impossible," she laments. "Turks are angry at Europe, because they feel rejected and betrayed. And we, as Levantine citizens of European countries, do not feel supported by our governments."

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 09 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1464. Sokak No:20, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Sister Roberta, one of the nuns who teach at the Italian School in Izmir, receives flowers by alumni of her school who are paying her an unexpected visit. The Italian School is managed by the order of Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea. Students, however, mostly Muslim Turks, receive a strictly secular education.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 10 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1464. Sokak No:20, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Sister Roberta helps a student during a drawing class. Due to a law banning religious clothing in schools, the nuns cannot wear Christian outfits.

"œPeople recognize us as nuns in the streets, because even if we don'€™t dress as nuns, we behave as nuns!" Sister Roberta proudly says. She also says the nuns never received threats or faced problems; on the contrary, they are extremely respected for the way they do their job.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 06 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
26 Nov 2014

A stained glass window at the Holy Rosary Church in Izmir depicts Pope Pius X, later Saint Pius X, elected in 1903, just one year before the church was built. The shadow of the grate protecting the window from vandalism can be seen in this photo. Society in Izmir is known for tolerance towards minorities, but in the past few years there have been increasing fears that Christians could be the target of attacks by extremists.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 07 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Father Stefano offers communion to worshipers at the Holy Rosay Church in Izmir. While most of the churchgoers are Levantines, others are foreigners who work at at the local NATO base. Father Stefano arrived to Izmir in 1976 during the worst political violence in Turkey, which lead to a military coup in 1980. He obtained Turkish citizenship after the coup to be able to stay in the country.

Today, he often argues with the police when he shows them his ID; Turkish identity cards report the religion and he is indicated as Catholic. Some policemen wonder how he could he be a Turkish citizen if he is not a Sunni Muslim.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 08 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

The relic of the Holy Lance, believed to date from the first century CE, is preserved at the Holy Rosary Church in Izmir. This spear is believed to have been used to stab Jesus Christ while on the cross. During the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922, over 5,000 people took refuge in this small church. When the friars returned, they found that the silver reliquary had been pillaged, but the priceless Lance was still there.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 04 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

A small number of worshipers attend a mass at the Holy Rosary Chruch in Izmir. Father Stefano Negro, the parish priest and keen historian of Izmir, says that he mostly holds funerals at the church. The few weddings he celebrates are almost always mixed, involving a non-Christian bride or groom.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 05 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
26 Nov 2014

An old statuette of the Virgin Mary is placed at the Holy Rosary Church. The church was built in Izmir by the Dominican Friars in 1904, when the promulgation of the Rosary by Pope Leo XIII and the devotion to the Immaculate Conception were at widely embraced, after the sensation caused by the apparitions at Lourdes.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 02 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Miss Caterina Ventura, the oldest member of Izmir's Catholic community, lights a candle at the Holy Lance altar, in the Church of Holy Rosary. Miss Ventura, born in 1921, was nine months old when her family fled to Italy, after the town was destroyed by the Great Fire at the end of Turkish War of Independence. Her family, of Italian and Greek ancestry, returned to Izmir after the new Turkish Republic was established.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 03 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Prayers for the deceased can be read in Italian, French and Turkish, the languages spoken by Catholic worshipers in Izmir. In the second half of 19th century, foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers formed a community of western citizens who made Izmir the gate to Anatolia. The Aegean city soon became soon the economic capital of the Ottoman Empire and foreigners born there, calling themselves Levantines, were able to build churches and practice their religion.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 01 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

The Holy Rosary Church in Alsancak was built in 1904 and was the only church that survived the Great Fire of 1922. After the fire, the church became a main communal center for Levantine Christians in Izmir.

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The yoruk- traditional nomads in a mo...
Taurus Mountains
By Piero Castellano
31 Oct 2014

Taurus Mountains (Turkey) November 1, 2014: The goat herd, led by YšoruŸk shepherds …Ozcan and …Ozay O…gan, descends the southern rim of the Taurus Mountains, toward the coastal low hills where they will spend the winter. (Photo by Piero Castellano)