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Phnom Penh Stampede
Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
By Jeffrey Bright
23 Nov 2010

Family members hold up a photograph outside Calmette Hospital to try and identify if their loved one is one of the victims of the stampede. The vast majority of the victims were female and adultescents. Cambodia is one of the region's poorer countries and has an underdeveloped health system, with hospitals barely able to cope with daily demand. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 23/11/2010

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Dallas, Texas
By Mais Istanbuli
01 Sep 2010

The Texas Survivalists is a militia group operating in the suburbs of Dallas, a mile from a middle school softball stadium. For them, bad times are coming: economic collapse, overnight inflation, nuclear war, epidemic, invasion and fuel shortages. The Survivalists – maybe a dozen in all, men and women in their early 20s to late 50s such as Trust Harold Rosenbaum, a Vietnam veteran, Ralph Severe, an armed security guard and Patricia, who is recovering from breast cancer – are steps ahead of most. They are combat training, storing food, stockpiling ammo, planning escape routes, packing survival kits, making soap and, most of all, assuring themselves that they don’t need another human alive to survive.

Their preparations can seem extreme to an outsider. They always pack a pistol and a supply of hollow-point rounds to cause maximum injury. They hide homemade knives around their living rooms. (Under the bookshelf is a favorite spot.) They place bug-out bags the size of coffee tables in the hallway, in preparation to run. Their survival kits bulge with dried food, clothes, ammunition and seeds - everything to start a new life. They have ceased living with day-to-day annoyances. They leave dishes dirty in the sink (Why wash when tomorrow's not coming?), let dust settle on the television, and seem oblivious to possessions piled in disarray on bare floors. Regular housework seems pointless when you're preparing to escape a collapsing city at a moment's notice.

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War Scars in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Mais Istanbuli
06 Jul 2010

On November 21, 1995, the Dayton Agreement ended the civil war in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina. 18 years later, the promises of the agreement have not been kept. Returning to a state of peace is slow and difficult in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the remnants of the war are evident everywhere.

War refugees live in containers or partially destroyed buildings. In 2012, UNHCR reported that around 112,802 people are still internally displaced.

Meanwhile, the ICMP (International Commission on Missing Persons) still works to identify those who are missing. According to the ICMP, at the end of the conflict in former Yugoslavia, 40,000 people were missing or presumed dead. So far, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, about 10,000 people are still missing.

The younger generation hopes that Bosnia and Herzegovina will join the European Union one day, but for many, peace and resolution still seem unattainable.

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Transgender In Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia
By U.S. Editor
09 May 2010

My photo story portrays cross dressers and transgender women that engage in sex work in Yerevan, Armenia — the most vulnerable and at-risk group in Armenia. The subjects in my photographs are predominantly young adults who have been cast off from society, who cannot find another job because of their appearance. Many of them have had a difficult childhood; they were sexually assaulted at a young age, grew up in orphanages, lived in socially insecure situations or under the care of a single parent. Being deprived of family, education and employment, many of them chose the easiest though most dangerous way to make money. Many transgender sex workers dream of having another job, a house, a family. Sometimes they organize private transgender social gatherings, where they party and dance until dawn. Transgender sex workers mainly live apart from their families, renting alone, or with a few people (in the same apartment).

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Calais, France
By Mais Istanbuli
05 Apr 2010

Fort Europe part 1 - Calais/France
An estimated number of five million illegal migrants live and work in the European Union. A number growing with at least 500.000 each year, despite great efforts by the EU, and in particularly the border states Spain, Greece and Italy, to prevent them from entering the EU.
In an area in the outskirts of Calais which goes by the name “the jungle", Afghan children and adolescents as young as 12 years of age, wash themselves in the waste water of the local factory.
They seek shelter and try to keep warm under blankets in the bushes and in tents donated by local charity organizations. It has been a very long and harsh winter. Should the migrants by any chance have assumed to have reached a peaceful place to rest after fleeing the war in Afghanistan, they have very soon been met by a quiet different reality. In the jungle of Calais the Afghan boys also seek shelter from a different power: the local riot police.

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Houston, Texas, USA
By Mais Istanbuli
11 Dec 2009

Approximately 79,000 people on any given day are homeless in Texas according to the National Survey Of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients. Also, NSHAPC report they believe in a year's time that approximately 265,000 Texans will experience homelessness.

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Sion, Mumbai, India
By Mais Istanbuli
08 May 2009

The homes of the original inhabitants of Mumbai, the Kolis have been facing demolition drive for high-end development projects.

As per law, a builder requires 70% of the residents of a registered society to give consent to the project but in Sion Koliwada, the residents have repeatedly asserted that the builder used forged documents to claim a majority for the project.

There are over 80 re-development projects in Mumbai where residents have repeatedly claimed that the builder used fraudulent means to claim consent.

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Tehran, Iran
By Mais Istanbuli
20 Apr 2009

Tehran's ex-prosecutor and controversial ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been released from Evin prison after spending almost two days in detention, Iranian media reported.

The reports on Wednesday did not elaborate on the circumstances of Saeed Mortazavi's release nor of his arrest on Monday night when he was sent to Evin, where many political prisoners and journalists have been imprisoned over years on his orders.

Mortazavi's detention, amid a brewing political fight between state branches, was criticised by Ahmadinejad as a "very ugly action".

Despite strong opposition from the parliament, Mortazavi is caretaker of Iran's wealthy social welfare organisation.

Before his post there, the 55-year-old was in charge of Iran's task force against smuggling.

But he is best known for his seven-year tenure as Tehran's prosecutor until August 2010, when he was suspended as a judge after a parliamentary probe found him responsible for sending anti-government protesters to Kahrizak, a detention centre south of Tehran.

Three protesters died in prison there, in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election that re-elected Ahmadinejad.

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The People Of Pingelap
Pingelap, Federated States of Micronesia
By U.S. Editor
02 Apr 2008

Pingelap is a small island in the Pacific Ocean, a part of the Federate States of Micronesia. About 240 people live on this atoll. Ten per cent of them have a genetic form of colour blindness, achromatopsia, meaning their sight is extremely diffused and their eyes very sensitive to light. This disease is locally known as "Maskun", which in Pingelapese language means "to not see".
In his book, The Island of the Colorblind, Oliver Sacks, author and neurologist, describes the life of the inhabitants of Pingelap. His interest is based on the question, if, because of the multitude of people with Maskun in Pingelap, there is an independent culture of colour blind people. This book inspired me to travel to Pingelap and create a photographic series as a study in the perception of people with Maskun. I discovered that in everyday life people with Maskun are hardly distinguishable from those without – only the constant blinking of the eyes in the bright sunshine reveals any difference. With my camera I wanted to somehow visualise how the island was percieved by its inhabitants and come to terms with those who are living with Maskun.

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Chitral, Pakistan
By Mais Istanbuli
01 Jan 2008


High in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province in a barely accessible area, live the Kalash People, Pakistan’s last remaining non-Muslim tribe. The Kalasha live in small villages built into the sides of idyllic valleys with gurgling streams, wheat and cornfields and fruit trees. Wooden houses stacked one on top of another, climb up the sides of steep cliffs. Children play freely and attend co-ed schools, while parents harvest crops and till the land.
Though they once numbered in the tens of thousands, the Kalasha have seen their numbers dwindle over the past century. Most experts put the current Kalasha population between 3,000 and 4,000.
The polytheistic Kalasha — whose women wear vibrant-colored embroidered dresses and beaded headdresses called “susutr" — are viewed with both admiration and suspicion by the Islamic majority.
After tens of thousands of Kalasha people, also called Nuristanis, were forcibly converted to Islam during the last century, only a few thousand retain their ancestral religion and traditions.
Wynn Maggi, anthropologist and author of "Our Women Are Free," says they were "brutally and forcibly converted to Islam, horribly persecuted, put in jail ... the Kalasha suffered a lot in their history.” Kalasha women were sometimes abducted and forced to marry Muslim men. Stories circulated of Kalasha men being forcibly circumcised.
With their light coloring — some even have blue eyes — the Kalasha are rumored to be the descendants of Alexander the Great’s army, which conquered the Hindu Kush along with “the known world” in the 4th century B.C. In Kalasha oral history, the people are the children of "Salaxi," their name for Alexander.
Most scientists and anthropologists dispute the legend: No genetic ties between Kalasha and Greeks have been discovered, and scientists believe the Kalasha are Indo-Aryans whose religion has some commonalities with pre-Zorastrian Iranians.
But regardless, the legend once lured busloads of Greek tourists to the valleys, seeking a link to their ancestral past.
“The tourists would always bring Greek coins and small perfume bottles with a portrait of Alexander the Great. Greek filmmakers have come to film the Kalasha. Some Greeks even brought Kalashas back to Greece to dance,” Maggi explained. Hellenic Aid has funded several projects in the Kalash Valleys, including the construction of two magnificent, wood-hewn Kalasha schools and several bashalis, women’s menstrual homes. "Their culture is a treasure belonging not only to Pakistan but to the whole world," said Athanasios Lerounis, a Greek teacher and activist who in 2009 was kidnapped and kept hostage for eight months—presumably by Islamic militants who disapproved of his work. There are just a few thousand Kalasha living “among a sea of Muslims,” he said — more than half of the remaining Kalasha have converted to Islam.

"We are here to support these cultural islands." Kalasha culture is threatened over pressure to convert to Islam. The pressure to convert to Islam comes in various forms. Some Kalasha convert for love or in hopes of bettering themselves, while others bow to peer pressure in the government-run schools, where students mix with Islamic students, and curriculum includes Koranic study. Recently, Kalasha girls began covering their hand-beaded headdresses with gauzy veils.
Since Kalasha has religion is its center, “Kalasha people see [Islam as a] threat — once you convert you are not 'Kalasha' and you can never be again," Maggi explained.
In the center of the Bumburet Valley, home to the largest Kalasha community, a mosque serves the area's Muslims, and the call to prayer permeates the village five times a day.
On the surface, it appears that Muslims and Kalasha coexist peacefully. Many are related — some converted, some not.
But incidents of ethnic hatred occasionally bubble to the surface. A wooden alter had it’s horse motif’s “decapitated” explained Akram Hussain, a Kalasha teacher at the Kaladasur School.
"This altar ... is sacred and historic," Nearby, a madrassa was built next to the Kalasha's sacred dancing ground. 
"Why couldn't they have put it any other place?" asked Hussain. Disrespect toward Kalasha religion is not new. Maggi said that a decade ago, “Kalasha gravestones were constantly being desecrated. Punjabi kids would pose and take photographs with the bones of Kalasha ancestors.”
Kalasha leaders can’t help but think that local Muslims damaged their sacred altar, despite protests by the town’s only imam.
“I worry because the tide is turning in Northern Pakistan due to the rise of fundamentalism. If fundamentalism spreads, the Kalasha will be easily targeted and could be wiped out or weakened," Maggi said. “The ironic and sad element is that the situation is destabilizing and escalating," said scholar Saima Saiddiqui. "If the situation remains the same, Kalasha will also suffer and what will be the outcome for the people already few in number?”

-Jodi Hilton