As the countdown for Turkey’s presidential and general elections has started, a rain of misinformation cracks the flags. Among the material that floods our Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds, two photographs are particularly eye-catching. Both photographs are taken during the current prime minister Binali Yıldırım’s campaign speech in Ordu, but they tell vastly different stories. Allegations accompanying the photos raced to prove how small or big a crowd gathered for Yıldırım’s speech. These two photographs, taken from different angles, provided a powerful manifestation of politics of presence and absence in an environment where presence has connotations of support and approval and absence has connotations of recession and disapproval. Photographs from the rallies of different political parties frequently sent to our hotline with questions about authenticity. Opponents of the current administration see the thin crowds attending AKP (Justice and Development Party) rallies as a sign of a growing dissatisfaction with AKP’s governance whereas the supporters of the current administration view the thin crowds at the rallies of opposition parties as a disinterest towards their promises. Teyit’s Ali Osman Arabacı explored the issue further in his detailed analysis.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım addressed the citizens on May 31st, after visiting the Municipality of Ordu. His address kindled a series of discussions on social media. In addition to that, news pieces published by Sözcü and Mynet asserted that the participation was low in Yıldırım’s Giresun and Ordu rallies.
CHP’s deputy chairman and İzmir representative Tuncay Özkan, shared a video on Facebook and Twitter alleging that the footage showed the crowd from Yıldırım’s Ordu address.
Özkan’s tweet reads: This is Ordu where AKP had %63 of the popular vote in the previous election. Prime Minister Yıldırım is addressing the crowd. IT SEEMS ORDU HAS HAD ENOUGH AS WELL.
In response to these, Ordu’s municipal, and a member of the ruling AKP, Enver Yılmaz said that these were games played on the perceptions of the citizens and the participation to Tıldırım’s speech was not low as claimed. AKP’s Ordu representative Metin Gündoğdu added that “the nation cannot be deceived by such lies” and described the photographs as black propaganda.
Following Yıldırım’s speech, some sources put two photographs side by side and asserted that the crowd attending Yıldırım’s speech was bigger than alleged.
Both images are from Yıldırım’s Ordu address
The allegation that the images shared by Tuncay Özkan and various news websites show Yıldırım’s Ordu address is correct. Additional photographs taken by local journalists can be seen on a news website by the name Ordu Takip.
It is possible to see the crowd in the limited area to listen to PM Yıldırım. More people on the adjacent Fatih Street can be seen to have gathered to hear the PM speak.
A birds-eye-view into the crowd shows empty spots in the area
A 16-minute video that shows the crowd in front of the Ordu’s Municipality building can be seen here. A local TV station whose building has an air view of the gathering area broadcasted the event live.
A closer look at the images and footage will reveal that the crowd was denser in front of the building and grew thinner towards the end of the street. It is also possible to see the crowd on the adjacent Fatih Street and another crowd in front of Aziziye Yalı Mosque at the end of the street.
The density of the crowd can also be determined from the photograph used by a news website called Erzurum Ajans in their account of the event which was published on May 31st, at 19.15.
Is the image shared by Ordu’s municipal, Enver Yılmaz, false?
The photographs shared by Ordu’s municipal Enver Yılmaz and AKP’s Ordu representative Metin Gündoğdu also show the crowd at Yıldırım’s speech, however, there are perspective-related differences between the images shared by them and Özkan.
The angle of the photograph above gives the impression of a dense crowd with no empty spots in between. However, there can be observed a considerable space between objects and people in the wider form of the photograph. For example, the flagpole that appears on the upper left corner of the photo above is actually in front of the building, almost divides the crowd into halves, and is parallel to the platform on which PM Yıldırım spoke. Also, there is a 30-meter space between the building and the said flag pole.
When the lines of the crosswalk in front of the building taken as a unit of measurement, it can be said that the flagpole falls roughly on the tenth line. When this line is taken as a reference point, it is possible to measure the distance between the flagpole and the building with the help of Google Earth.
In addition to that, it is possible to see an additional group of people watching the rally behind cars on Murat Street which starts at the end of the limited area where the event was held. With the help of Google Earth, it is possible to measure the distance between the area where the speech was held and the Murat Street as approximately 10.12 meters.
Consequently, two photographs give different impressions about the same event due to the different perspectives from each was taken.
On the basis of a square-meter calculation, how many people might have attended PM Yıldırım’s rally?
Using a tool called Mapchecking, it is possible to calculate the approximate number of people in a given area. You may see a visualized version of a crowd situated in a space divided into meter-squares. Taking these images prepared by crowd safety and risk analysis specialist Keith G. Still as a reference point, it can be said that in Ordu, approximately one person stands on each square meter.
Still’s visualization of two people per square-meter crowd.
Therefore, given that a person stood on each square-meter, it is safe to assume that the crowd gathered for Yıldırım’s speech comprised roughly 846 people. Although it is unrealistic to assume that, when we presume that two people stood on each square-meter in the rally area, to give the density in the front rows its due, the number rises to 1693.
If we presume that one person stands on each square-meter in the area at the end of Fatih Street and in the garden of Aziziye Yalı Mosque, the number of people who watched the rally from these areas add up to 690. When we suppose that two people stood on each square-meter, this number rises to 1381.
To sum up, if we assume that the crowd’s density was one person per square meter, the total number of people who listened to Yıldırım’s speech is 1536. If we proceed by the presumption that the density of Yıldırım’s audience was two people per square meter, this number rises to 3074.
In the end, all the photographs and videos shared by different news organizations with the allegation that they showed the crowd that attended PM Yıldırım’s Ordu address are authentic. The photograph shared by Ordu’s municipal Enver Yılmaz, on the other hand, is authentic but taken from a different angle. By presuming the crowd density was one person per square meter, it can be said that the crowd gathered to listen to Yıldırım’s speech comprised of minimum 1500 people. By a reasonable assumption, it can be said that less than one person stood on each square-meter near the end of the rally area. Thus, the minimum number of people who may have attended the event can be calculated between 1000-1500. The maximum number of people who may have attended Yıldırım’s address, on the other hand, can be calculated roughly as 4000.
Translation: Rumeysa Sena Şahbaz