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Arzu Yontar

The Middle East has often been a hot spot in the world because of the religious, political and geographical objectives and conflicting goals of different groups of people in the region and the location of the valuable natural resource, oil. Conflict in this geographical area increased after World War II, especially, with the ongoing struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which began in the mid-20th century. Then, the American-Iraq war or Second Persian Gulf War, which began in 2003 increased hostilities and ended in 2011. However in 2014 the United States military re-entered Iraq when Iraq erupted into a civil war between the Sunni and the Shia. Now Iraq also deals with the emergence of ISIL or ISIS. ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Then, in 2011 the Arab Spring occurred, which refers to the democratic uprisings that arose independently and spread across the Arab world. The movement originated in Tunisia in December 2010 and quickly affected Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. These countries are all still suffering with conflicts, but in Syria and Yemen the people are experiencing war at an extreme level. Many Middle Eastern people, including women and their children, have fled from their countries as war refugees. More then two million of these refugees have gone to Turkey, and over a million of them have gone to Europe. This sudden influx of war refugees has created a refugee crisis in Europe, sometimes resulting in inadequate housing and poor living conditions and prejudice against these mostly Muslim war refugees. This refugee crisis has contributed to the rise of right wing nationalists in several European nations.

As a Muslim woman artist from Turkey, I am very sensitive to and aware of what is currently happening in the Middle East and I am especially concerned about the women and children living in that part of the world. It is because of the physical geographic link between Turkey and the Middle East, and my strong emotional connection that I am interested in depicting, the lives of these Muslim women today, who attempt to survive in a war zone. These women have been dying or suffering every day over many years, and few people around the world know of their suffering or talk about these innocent victims subjected to the horrors of a modern war. Modern war uses conventional weapons that are able with precision and speed to cause an indiscriminate destruction of entire blocks of houses in cities. This increase in the destructiveness of modern weapons has been tremendous since World War II.

The landscape pieces, which I created as collages, reference the many different countries in the Middle East that are being affected by wars. A part of Turkey, which is my home country, is in the Middle East. Turkey has been instrumental in offering sanctuary to refugees from these wars and has also experienced terrorist activity in some of its cities. It is hard for me to see these Middle Eastern nations as individual countries and focus on them one by one because they seem like a seamless amalgam of cultures, languages, and religions. Some groups extend over several nations. Due to the complex blend and interactive nature of the cultures, I picked four to ten different pieces of war scenes from each Middle Eastern country and created one landscape to show the whole disaster of the Middle Eastern area in one piece. My mission is to create this Middle East War Landscape Series that will with each piece depict those parts of cities destroyed after the bombings and aerial attacks. . People, buildings, cars, furniture, toys, and guns are repeating elements that I found within each of the scenes that reflected the damaged and broken lives of the people forced to live through the atrocities of a modern war.

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