Tag Archives: Tomas Munita

Syria’s Agony: The Photographs That Moved Them Most

Syria has always been a tough place to cover for journalists. Confidently authoritarian with a ruthlessly formidable security and intelligence apparatus, Syria has long been one of the most policed of Arab police states. So when some Syrians defied their government to take to the streets in the southern city of Dara‘a in March 2011, the temptation to cover the story was overwhelming for many, including myself.

The story of the Syrian uprising is ultimately the tale of regular citizens silencing the policeman in their heads, breaking their own personal barriers of fear to speak, to demonstrate, to demand, to reject, to no longer be afraid, to live in dignity. It’s about what these people will do, what they will endure, and what they are prepared to become to achieve their aims.

It is also the story of a significant portion of the population that considers the regime of President Bashar Assad the country’s best option, because they believe in its Baathist secular ideology or directly benefit from its patronage or don’t have confidence in Assad’s opponents and fear what may come next. Understanding what this segment of the population will accept in terms of state violence, the narratives they choose to believe and their concerns is a critical component of the story, though one that is harder to obtain, given the paucity of press visas issued by Damascus.

The only way to tell the Syrian story, really tell it, is to be on the ground with the men, women and children who are central to it, whether in Syria on in the neighboring states that many Syrians have fled to. It isn’t easy to do — the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York City, has dubbed Syria the “most dangerous place for journalists in the world” — but it is essential. Nothing beats being there. There is no compensating for seeing, feeling, touching, capturing, living the story.

The images here are a testament to the power of being on the ground, of sharing and capturing a moment for posterity, of translating an element of a person’s life through imagery.

Take a look at the photos. Can you place yourself in these situations? Can you imagine what it must be like? What do you feel when you look at the images? Are you drawn into them, or are you repulsed? Can you relate to them, or are they too alien? This is the power of translating on-the-ground reporting to an audience. This is why we must and will continue to document the Syrian uprising from inside the country when we can, and we — members of the foreign press corps — are not alone. Sadly, as is often the case, local journalists (both professional and citizen) have disproportionately borne the brunt of the casualties in this crisis. Still, this story is not about members of the media and what we go through to tell it; it’s about the Syrians who entrust their testimonies, their experiences, their hopes, their fears, their images to us in the hope that they will help explain what is happening in one of the most pivotal states in the Middle East.

—Rania Abouzeid


This collection of testimonies is the third in a series by TIME documenting iconic images of conflict. See “9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” and “Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” for more.

Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Reporting by Vaughn Wallace.



A Mural in Cairo: The Backdrop Of A Revolution

A huge, colorful mural of the men Egyptian youth activists know as feloolregime remnantsadorns a buildings wall on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in downtown Cairo. Branching off of the now iconic Tahrir Square, Mohamed Mahmoud leads to the dreaded Interior Ministry. A number of bloody clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces have taken place here in the year and a half since a popular uprising ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and launched the Arab worlds largest country into a tumultuous transition. Search Engine Optimization . To Egypts budding generation of revolutionary street artists, these walls are prime real estate for political expression.

Omar Fathi, the 26-year-old art student, who painted the mural with a set of cheap plastic paints last February, conceived of the idea after a deadly soccer riot had led to another series of clashes between police and protesters, leaving more than 80 people dead. Like much of his art, it was an image borne of frustration. Many of the youth protesters had blamed the ruling military and the police forces under its command for the deadly soccer riot and the ensuing violence as anger spread to the streets. directory submission . To Fathi, it was further evidence of the states failure to govern and protectsomething he had grown accustomed to under Mubarak, but that he and other youth activists and members of his Revolution Artists Union say has only continued under military rule. Basically it represents the situation we are in, nothing has changed since the fall of the regime, he says. Its the same leadershipthe face has changed, but the rest is still the same.

The mural depicts a split faceon the right, the scowling visage of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; and on the left, the man he once appointed to run his military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. As the head of Egypts powerful military council, Tantawi has been Egypts de facto ruler since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.

Shortly after Fathi painted his masterpiece, someonehe suspects from the military painted over it. To spite them, he painted it again. When it was painted over a second time, he re-painted it a third, this time adding the faces of two presidential candidates, Amr Moussa, and Ahmed Shafik. Both men had served in Mubaraks regime. And the run-off to the presidential election this month pit Ahmed Shafik against a candidate from the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, in a tense face-off that some activists characterized as a battle between the old order and the new; the military regime versus the revolution. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy won. But Tantawi and his military council have ensured that Morsy only wields certain presidential powers; the military controls the rest. And Fathi says hell keep painting. Our contribution [to the revolution] is to portray the demands of the revolution through art. This has been our role since the eighteen days [of the uprising], he says. We serve the revolution through art, and we will keep illustrating our demands.

Sharaf al-Hourani is a news assistant for TIME Magazine in Cairo
.

Church and State: The Role of Religion in Cuba

Shortly after establishing his communist revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro declared Cuba an “atheist” state and all but shut down the Roman Catholic church on the island. But ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cuban economy with it, Fidel and his younger brother Raúl, who has taken over as President, have looked to the church and its charitable missions for help. Pope John Paul II’s historic visit in 1998 helped resurrect the Cuban church – and today its bishops have emerged as political as well as spiritual players, brokering the release of political prisoners and broadening the island’s fledgling private sector. The church now is nothing less than the first and only alternative institution to the Cuban Revolution.

But Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba this week is a reminder that the Cuban church is not without its critics on both sides of the communist divide. Castro foes accuse it of being too timid about confronting the government’s repression of human rights, democracy and free speech and scold it for not using its new influence to hasten a Havana Spring. Meanwhile, Castro police and militants, fearing the church is actually doing too much to encourage regime change, are increasingly jailing and harassing Catholic dissidents like the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White).

Church leaders insist they’re planting the seeds of Cuba’s long-term democratization. Either way, as Tomás Munita’s somber but arresting photos point out to us, both the island’s secular and religious worlds are still in a state of disrepair. The church is in a rare position to renovate them – and it’s under pressure now to move a lot faster than those vintage cars in Munita’s shots.

Tomas Munita is a freelance photographer based in Santiago, Chile. See more of his work here.