Lâm Duc Hiên is a child of the Mekong. Born in Laos in 1966, he had to flee the country in 1975. He then spent two years in refugee camps in Thailand. In 1977, he arrived in France where he experienced the transit camps and red tape and attempted to (re)build his life. Art provided a means to channel the energy that consumed him while photography gave him a better understanding of the suffering of others. In 1990, he crossed paths with humanitarian workers, which was the beginning of a long companionship, from Équilibre to Médecins du Monde, from Romania to Rwanda, from the cause of children to the cause of women victims of violence. But his native country and childhood river always called him back: in 2009, he published the images (with words by Philippe Franchini) from his 4,200 km boat-hitchhiking trip along the Mekong to meet people living on the banks of this mythical river that flows through Thailand, Cambodia, China and, of course, Laos (Mékong, histoires d’hommes, Chêne). He has received several awards for his work, most notably the Leica Prize, the Grand Prix Européen de la Ville de Vevey in 1995 and first prize at the World Press Photo Awards in 2001 for his portraits published in Gens d’Irak. It was to Iraq that he returned. Continue reading
In September 2020, Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece, made a brief return to the forefront of the international stage when it was almost completely destroyed in a series of fires. While the event highlighted the desperate situation in which more than five years of encampment policies had left the camp’s inhabitants, it also raised hopes and expectations among migrant populations and part of civil society, as expressed by the slogan “bye bye, Moria” that emerged from the flames. Continue reading
Bruno Cabanes is an historian, specialised in contemporary history. He is the Donald G. and Mary A. Dunn Chair in Military History at Ohio State University in the United States. He has written several books on the First World War and the post-war era, including The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918-1924 (Cambridge University Press), which received the 2016 Paul Birdsall Prize, awarded biennially by the American Historical Association. In 2018, he edited the collective volume Une histoire de la guerre du xixe siècle à nos jours published by Éditions du Seuil. This interview in fact relates to another of his books, entitled Un siècle de réfugiés. Photographier l’exil, published in 2019 also by the Éditions du Seuil. Continue reading
Unsung Heroes is a joint endeavour undertaken by Denis Rouvre and Médecins du Monde. This photography project “arose from the desire shared with Médecins du Monde to bear witness to the violence in the world as experienced by women” as the photographer said. “For eight months in nine countries worldwide, over one hundred women put their trust in me and accepted my presence behind the microphone, behind the lens. Despite the language barrier, cultural codes, and personal trials, these women have told their story. They have broken the silence with courage and sincerity. With tears, too, a harrowing emotion. All of them posed openly and mindfully, prepared and supported by the NGO. You are not the same after these kinds of encounters. The direct and tangible reality far exceeded the idea in my head. It was a real shock, from the very first portraits in Bulgaria. Meeting women from the Roma community doomed to marry and have children when they are teenagers in the filthy surroundings of a ghetto. Violence and extreme poverty. Moral violence, experienced by displaced Syrian and Palestinian women. Sexual violence carried out on women in the Congo and Colombia. Domestic violence, gang rapes, brutality. Not excluding our European capitals, where women who are abused, exploited, and facing precarity come up against rejection and hate. For thirty years, I have photographed many women who are putting on a front. They are looking for a controlled, smooth image from me that goes without a hitch. Here, with the unsung heroes I met, shadows are coming into the light. Bruises and cracks on the surface of the skin, in the hollows of the eyes. The voices, words, and authentic tone of the personal experience of violence are being expressed. Recounting the specific suffering experienced by women. As well as the strength of being a woman. The ability to pick yourself up and keep on fighting.” Continue reading
Abdulmonam Eassa was born in Damascus in 1995. Until early 2018 he was based in Hammouria, Eastern Ghouta, in the agricultural countryside near Damascus, 13 km north-east of the capital. When the war broke out in 2011, he was forced to quit his studies. In 2013, the many crimes committed by the Syrian army he witnessed motivated him to start his activity of photojournalist, along with some of his friends, to cover the near-daily airstrikes, the deaths of civilians and the massacres by the Syrian government forces and supported by the Russian air force in their fight “against terrorism”. Their main goal was to share with the world the reality of what happened in Syria that foreign journalist could not cover, as they were not allowed to enter the area under siege by the government forces: the Syrian government had blocked the access for foreign medias since 2011, in order to hide what was happening in the country.
At the end of March 2018, after a period of terror and bombing during which hundreds of innocent civilians were killed, an agreement was reached between rebel fighters and the Syrian government leading to the forced displacements of civilians to the north of Syria. Abdulmonam was forced to leave his hometown. Once he arrived in the north, the situation being unbearable, he decided to cross the Turkish border. After several months of travel, he managed to get to Paris where he was able to apply for asylum.
Photojournalism has become Abdulmonam’s passion. What had started as a self-taught activity has led him to be published in the New York Times, Time, The Guardian and the Washington Post. He has worked for the Agence France Presse (AFP) and has won the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Prix Visa d’Or Humanitaire2019 award.
About Eastern Ghouta
Eastern Ghouta was one of the first regions to participate in the peaceful uprising in Syria in early 2011. The regime lost control of the region in late 2012. Almost two thirds of al-Ghouta were held by the opposition and besieged by the regime for more than five years. Eastern Ghouta is considered to be one of the regions that has witnessed the most horrific attacks by the Syrian regime. Before 2011, the population was 1.2 million. In March 2018, there were only 400,000.
Syrian civilians walked alongside a completely destroyed four-story building following shelling by the Syrian government in the town of Ain-Taram, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on 17 July 2017.
Volunteers from the Syrian Civil Defence (known as the White Helmets) dig a girl out of the rubble following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018.
Two Syrian sisters run across the rubble to embrace after finding each other alive following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018. Air strikes and artillery fire killed dozens of civilians in the besieged rebel enclave, targeted by near-daily regime bombardments.
A picture taken on February 9, 2018, shows a bandaged Syrian boy sitting in a clinic between two young people. He was injured in reported regime air strikes in the town of Arbin.
A Syrian man grieves over the death of his son following a reported air strike in the rebel-controlled town of Arbin, in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on December 3, 2017. A wave of Syrian air strikes killed at least 19 civilians and wounded dozens across the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syrian civil defence volunteers pray over the body of a victim who died in a building collapse following a reported regime bombardment in Haza, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 26, 2018.
Volunteers from the Syrian civil defence help a man in Hamouria during Syrian government shelling on rebel-held areas in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 6, 2018. Heavy air strikes and clashes shook the rebel enclave, as France and Britain called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the escalating violence.
Syrians work inside a workshop producing fuel and gas from plastic waste materials in the town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, 15 April 2017.
Syrian civilians and rebel fighters prepare to embark aboard buses during the evacuation from the town of Arbin in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 25, 2018.
A Syrian woman and child walk down a destroyed street as civilians and rebels prepare to evacuate one of the few remaining rebel-held pockets in Arbin, in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, on March 24, 2018.
The unhoped-for end to the siege
A city under siege is nothing but a huge prison, trapping you and your loved ones inside without any possibility of leaving.
The only escape is to take refuge in your dreams and memories, but this is only temporary – every time reality comes rushing back and drags you down the hole of everyday horrors and suffering. Sounds of shelling, airstrikes, the threat of death that follows you everywhere you go, starvation, freezing weather, skyrocketing prices and endless losses.
Until March 2018, airstrikes were hitting the villages of Eastern Ghouta on a daily basis, a terrorizing and destructive rate that had not been seen throughout the years of the siege – since 2013.
In under 60 days, the landscape of the cities and villages changed completely with the destruction of mosques, hospitals and schools. The shelling was a form of collective punishment for everyone living under the siege, and a lesson for other rebellious neighbourhoods and cities. During this period, innocent people could not leave the shelters to secure their daily needs because of their deep fear from the constant shelling. Some died in shelters trying to protect themselves.
The little pocket of Eastern Ghouta that was under the control of opposition brigades and some Islamist factions was reason enough for the Syrian regime to mobilise its huge military apparatus – supported by Russian air strikes – to kill thousands of innocent civilians using all kinds of munitions. In March 2018, a large part of fighters and civilians were evacuated to Northern Syria, after an unfair deal that displaced nearly 70,000 residents from their homes and lands.
To read the article in PDF click here.
ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-606-5
All credits and legends : © Agnès Varraine-Leca/MSF
Four years of war, with more than 19,000 air strikes by the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition and conservative estimates suggest a human toll of 90,000. Civilians are paying a heavy price, the first victims of the coalition’s strikes as well as the ground battles between loyalist forces – loyal to President Hadi and supported by the coalition – and Ansar Allah’s troops. The latter are themselves responsible for heavy civilian casualties, especially due to their intensive use of landmines in the west of the country(1)For a better understanding of the causes and context of this conflict, see Francis Frison-Roche, “Yemen: a conflict behind closed doors”, Humanitarian Alternatives, n°4, March 2017, p.12-33, http://alternatives-humani-taires.org/en/2017/03/09/yemen-a-conflict-behind-closed-doors.
Agnès Varraine-Leca travelled to Yemen for Médecins Sans Frontières, three timesbetween March 2018 and May 2019. She recently documented the living conditions inside the city of Hodeidah, where a military operation started in June 2018, as well as the consequences of the bombings on civilians living in the Saada Governorate, in the north of the country, which has been most targeted by the coalition. In late December 2018, she also went to Mocha, in the Taiz Governorate, where landmines are wreaking havoc, maiming and killing children, and preventing families from cultivating their land. For a year and a half she has documented this war “behind closed doors”; a photographic work that will be published as a book in 2020.
Yemen, Saada Governorate, Haydan hospital, 20 April 2019
Patients wait their turn near the triage area in Haydan hospital. On 26 October 2015, the hospital was hit by a Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition airstrike, partially destroying the facility. In February 2017, MSF teams returned to Haydan to start the gradual implementation of medical activities: maternity (March 2017), inpatient department (April 2017), referral to Saada hospitals (May 2017), outpatient department (December 2017). They finished the hospital’s reconstruction in April 2018. In 2018, nearly 14,000 emergency consultations and 3,800 antenatal consultations were conducted at the hospital. The same year, more than 1,500 patients were admitted to the inpatients department. Haydan is located in the Saada Governorate, which remains the governorate most targeted by international coalition airstrikes, according to the independent monitoring group Yemen Data Project (YDP).
Daily life in Sa’dah city (Yemen, April 2019)
Ayman is a barber originally from Ibb, south of Sa’dah city. In 2015, his house in Sa’dah was bombed by a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition airstrike. Twenty-eight members of his family died that day; only three survived including Ayman. He remembers the screams from the rubble, without being able to help them. At that time, he was studying IT. His brother, who owned a barber shop, died in the bombing. Thus Ayman stopped studying and started managing his family’s barber shop. This is the first time he has returned to the scene since 2015.
Ayman’s barber shop.
A camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Sa’dah. Mosabi and his family had to leave Harad, near the Saudi border, a few months after the war started. They fled to Hodeidah and then settled in this camp in Sa’dah. Mosabi has 19 children and 3 wives.
The court in Sa’dah was destroyed in late 2015 by an airstrike.
Destroyed buildings in the city of Sa’dah.
In 2015, a park and several shops were bombed during an airstrike near the old city of Sa’dah.
A crossroads in the city of Sa’dah.
The post office in Sa’dah was destroyed by an airstrike.
Daily life in Mocha (Yemen, December 2018)
Defused landmines. Mawza is located in Taiz Governorate, 45 minutes to the east of the city of Mocha. It is a very poor rural area where people depend on their land to live. The area was taken from Ansar Allah’s control by forces loyal to President Hadi, backed by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in early 2018. The fighting damaged the fields and thus, the main livelihood of the 13,000 inhabitants of Mawza. When the military troops withdrew, thousands of antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted in the area. Between August and December, MSF teams in Mocha received around 150 people injured by landmines or IEDs.
A third were children playing in the fields. Landmines and IEDs are defused by military forces. Local NGOs are responsible locating these devices.
Mocha. Nasser, 14, and his father Mohammed Abdou, come from Mafraq Al Mocha, one hour from Mocha. On 7 December, Nasser was tending his sheep with his uncle and his cousin, they were planning to go to the mountains. Nasser stepped on a landmine in a field. He and his uncle were injured by the blast. His uncle got shrapnel in his eyes and was transferred to MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha, and then to MSF’s trauma hospital in Aden. Nasser had multiple injuries, and his right foot was amputated as soon as he arrived at the hospital. “The bone was completely shattered so there was nothing left to save”, explains Farouk, physiotherapist. Nasser had previously had his thumb amputated because of a gunshot, which now makes it difficult for him to walk with crutches. Mohammed Abdou, Nasser’s father, explains that the fighting has intensified this year. As the military troops withdrew, they planted many landmines near Mafraq Al Mocha and in the area along the frontlines. MSF is supporting an advanced field hospital in Mafraq Al Mocha. The city’s residents know some of the places to avoid because there are landmines, but there are not enough signs to indicate the presence of landmines in the area or demining personnel. Mohammed Abdou is now afraid to go into the fields around Mafraq. The picture shows Nasser trying to walk with crutches for the first time, with the help of Farouk, his physiotherapist.
Amarah, 8, and her grandmother Fatma. Amarah was injured by a landmine while playing near her home in Dubba, Mocha district (Taiz Governorate). On 1 December, she was with friends (three girls and a boy) in a sheep field close to Dubba, in the district of Mocha. Amarah saw an object with numbers: when she touched it, the landmine exploded. The explosion injured all four children, killing the boy. Fatma, her grandmother, heard the explosion and ran to the field. Amarah was evacuated on a mule. She was then transferred by car to Mocha military hospital (a one-hour drive), and then to MSF’s surgical hospital in the city. The family knows there are landmines in the area but their exact location is not signposted and many people have been injured, including Amarah’s uncle. Amarah suffered multiple injuries on the right side of her face, her abdomen and her right leg. She underwent several surgical interventions, including a laparotomy.
A child injured by a landmine in Mawza is examined by Elma Wong, anaesthetist, in the emergency room of MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha. He was injured on 13 December with three other members of his family. Two of them arrived dead at the hospital. The child had shrapnel in his skull, arm and face.
Ali (centre), 18, comes from a small village in a very poor, rural area near Mawza, 45 minutes from Mocha. Two months ago, he was supposed to meet three friends in a field near his house. As he was late, he started running, and suddenly a landmine exploded. Usually, he is very careful when walking in the field, because he knows landmines were planted in the area when the military forces withdrew a few months ago. There are no specific signs to indicate the presence of landmines. His left leg was amputated below the knee; it was already weak due to the polio he contracted as a child. Since the accident, he has been travelling to MSF’s hospital in Mocha twice a week for physiotherapy sessions with Farouk (left). From his village, the journey takes one and half hours.
Ali Hassan, 40, is a driver and a former soldier. Father of two sons and two daughters, he has lived with his family in Hodeidah for 25 years. He was driving near Khawkha, 60 km from Mocha, when a rocket hit his vehicle, injuring six people and killing another. Ali has shrapnel in his face and abdomen and had his left foot amputated. “There is food in Hodeidah, but it’s very expensive. We have regular water shortages and no electricity. A lot of shops are closed inside the city.” Like many people he knows, Ali sent his wife and children to Sana’a for their safety. “Men are staying in Hodeidah to protect their houses. I am far away from my family but what can I do? It’s better for them to be a safer place. The war has changed everything.”
ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-564-8
|￪1||For a better understanding of the causes and context of this conflict, see Francis Frison-Roche, “Yemen: a conflict behind closed doors”, Humanitarian Alternatives, n°4, March 2017, p.12-33, http://alternatives-humani-taires.org/en/2017/03/09/yemen-a-conflict-behind-closed-doors|
Its rallying slogan, “So as not to stay with our eyes shut”, is a leitmotiv that resonates for humanitarian workers, development professionals and social workers and which justifies our turning the lens towards these revealers that are photographers.
Created in 2001, collectif item’s members now include 12 photographers, a video and sound director, a graphic designer and an anthropologist.
Interview with Reza
“War and peace correspondent”. This phrase, for which Reza has a particular fondness, perfectly encapsulates his view of the world, a view full of optimism in an ocean of suffering, hope under the rubble, humanity behind the madness of mankind. But revealing all this is not enough for Reza. Since the beginning of his career, the photojournalist has never ceased to use his profession and his fame to solve the problems he encounters on his reportages. No doubt because he sees a little clearer than the others…
Humanitarian Alternatives is widening the furrow of its partnership with photographers. Because the sensitivity that emerges from the work already done by MAPS’s 12 photographers echoes this fundamental concern of humanitarians – to see the world as it is –, we present here a selection of their photographs.
The regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in France created in 2011 the “Humanitarian Visa d’Or (Gold Visa)” in partnership with the prestigious International Festival of Photojournalism held in Perpignan, “Visa pour l’image” (Visa for Pictures). With an award of 8,000 euros, this prize recognises the photographer who will have been able to present, in 10 pictures, an issue concerning international humanitarian action and law. Between 2011 and 2014, “care in action” was selected by the jury, comprising representatives of international media and the humanitarian community. Since 2015, the theme of “women in war” has been proposed for the competition. The 2017 award winner, Angela Ponce Romero, 23 years old, exposed her work “Ayacucho, the missing in conflict” in Perpignan and was viewed, as the preceding ones, by more than 40,000 visitors. Continue reading