When I graduated from university, I worked in ministry of women affairs for six months and I was working on criminal cases. One day when I was crossing the Puli Sokhta bridge, I saw addicted people under the bridge. They were laying there, and their situation was unbearable. When I saw this, I thought: the women who are suffering from a problem, at least they know that they are human beings. They are not forgetting their own personalities. But these people, they get this sickness, they forget who they are. So, that made me think to change my field.
Shabnam S., a 25-year-old woman from Afghanistan, in The Therapist.
The piece is part of a series by Jeffrey Stern, a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, called Afghanistan: On Its Own, in which Stern chronicles how vulnerable groups (women, minorities, youth, businesses dependent on foreign presence) are preparing for the withdrawal of foreign troops this year.
Shabnam, for example, writes about how jobs including her own are funded by foreign money:
Nowadays, people are graduating with good grades from universities. They go and search for jobs, but they cannot get them. For my own job, funding is provided by foreign countries. Once 2014 comes, foreign forces will leave and it is concern for all. We are all concerned, scared. But with all these challenges and with all this thinking that comes to our minds, we still try to believe that even after the foreign forces leave Afghanistan, we can stand on our own feet. And that we should still help these people on our own, somehow. But we understand that we are losing our budgets.
And the other concern we have is that, right now, there are organizations working against drug sellers, working against people who are importing, using, producing drugs, but when the foreign forces leave, there will be insecurity. And that insecurity will increase the rate of drug sellers and drug users and drug importers. That’s a big concern, because it is a big problem for us, we will have even more people addicted to the drugs. Now, there are organizations who are taking care of child labor, street children and other children, but in the future there won’t be such a thing. That will make more children drug users.
See the other pieces in the series, published in Foreign Policy, here.
The 10th anniversary this month of the invasion of Iraq will remind most people of a divisive and dubious war that toppled Saddam Hussein but claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians.
What it conjures up for me is the media’s greatest failure in modern times.
Major news organizations aided and abetted the Bush administration’s march to war on what turned out to be faulty premises. All too often, skepticism was checked at the door, and the shaky claims of top officials and unnamed sources were trumpeted as fact.
For Syria’s war is characterised most strongly by absence and collective abandonment. Other than the protagonists and victims the arena is almost empty. There is no foreign military intervention. There are no NGOs or aid workers distributing food and blankets. The media is similarly self-exiled: very few broadcasters or newspapers commit journalists regularly, if at all. A handful of freelance photographers work inside the country, but none of the big names. The middle-aged bravehearts of Bosnia and Afghanistan have grown old and too soft for the hardships of Syria, while the economics of journalism have not allowed their replacement generation to prosper. That McCullin, still a prizefighter despite his years, had hauled himself out to that lonely war zone was inspiring in itself, legitimising the work of the few freelancers already there and challenging the absentees.
Anthony Loyd, The Australian. Parting shots.
That’s right: a 77 year old photographer named Don McCullin recently went to Aleppo to take his last set of photos, 15 years after his last war assignment. See the above article for an account of his trip as told by the much younger journalist in charge of his safety.
There’s no telling which photos from Syria’s revolutionary war will become famous and come to represent the conflict, if any do at all. For a great collection of pictures by other photojournalists in the country, see these. For more of McCullin, who is something of a legend in his line of work, see this bio and a portion of his photography from Vietnam and Lebanon.