From Pulitzer Center grantee beenishahmed:
The makeshift studio from which I delivered my first interview for TV!
Check out her reporting on Pakistan’s education emergency here.
Women waiting to vote in a rather orderly polling station in #Islamabad. #Pakistan #PakVotes
Check out her reporting from Pakistan here.
From Pulitzer Center grantee Steve Sapienza’s Twitter:
Sean Rudolph of International Labor Rights Forum convenes meeting with leaders of migrant workers rights groups from Thailand.— steve sapienza (@saptwit)
Learn about where your shrimp comes from through Sapienza and Jason Motlagh’s reporting on migrant workers in the Thai shrimp industry.
I report on a two-room school in a low-income part of Islamabad that is giving a second chance to women who dropped out of school as children. Tune in to the story for Deutsche Welle’s World in Progress, which was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
From Pulitzer Center grantee mujibmashal:
Out of Farah, I wrote about the massacre - for which the Taliban claimed responsibility - that has left this city gripped with fear.
“Among the dead was Fraidoon, a 28-year-old graduate of Islamic law from Herat University. He had been serving as a clerk in the court for the past three years. “I was in the hospital in the morning visiting a sick relative when I heard about the attack at the court,” said Haji Said Ahmad Jan, Fraidoon’s father. He tried to call Fraidoon’s number, but the call wouldn’t go through. So he waited at the hospital until 4:30 p.m., inspecting every dead and injured person that was brought in, hoping his son would be among the injured. The register at the provincial hospital shows that 124 wounded people and 39 dead were brought in — others were taken to private hospitals or to their homes. To make room for the wounded, this small hospital had to clear the maternity ward, sending pregnant women home…After the fight was over, Ahmad Jan got a call that his son’s body was found in the courthouse. Fraidoon had a bullet in the head, one in the neck and one in his left torso. He leaves behind two young sons and a young daughter.”
Taliban spox: “We besieged all the rooms and shot them in the head one by one.”
As I was interviewing Fraidoon’s father, an elderly man - with large, dark eyes and a white paach turban - chipped in: “Fraidoon was not just his son,” the man said, “he was the son of all of us - of thousands. He was quite the kind-hearted young man.”
Lots of questions still remain, as to why the Taliban attacked a courthouse and that too in Farah. Officials rule out the initial reports that the attack was aimed at releasing prisoners - there were no political prisoners being tried, they say. The governor, Akram Khpalwak, points to foreign hands. He told me the attackers spoke two foreign languages: one, an Iranian accent of Farsi, and a second language that survivors could not identify.
But, what is certain is this: the attack has left a huge mark on the small city: “The day after the explosion, I asked a shopkeeper friend why he wouldn’t open his shop again. His words kept me awake till 3 a.m. that night. He said ‘What good is life if you share memories with a person one day, and the next day his flesh is smeared on your goods.’”
Beautiful Saturday morning in Istanbul
Check out Pulitzer Center grantee Lauren Bohn’s photos of Egypt’s forgotten indigenous people, the Nubians, here.
February in Eastern Congo—the rainy season. Heat, humidity and mud. The makeshift roads had a bone-shaking familiarity to them. It had been a year since I was last in Eastern Congo.
I’ve been working here for over 10 years now. Congo has a magnetic pull. The spectacular natural beauty coupled with the intense brutality keeps one in a perpetual state of anxiety and awe – how can one be in heaven and hell all at the same time? The people relate terrifying stories of violence and brutality but their resilience and, often, good humor makes them unforgettable. They compel you to tell their story and to return to keep telling their story.
In February 2013, people were still nervous after the rebellion led by the M23 movement a few months before. Although the rebels had officially withdrawn from Goma, the regional capital of North Kivu, they were only a few kilometers out of town. Rumors persisted that many were still in Goma but wearing civilian clothes, ready at any moment to don their uniforms and take up arms again. Lake Kivu was calm, the quiet before the storm.
Away from Goma, on the road heading west hugging the lake, Congolese soldiers were everywhere. They’d been forced to withdraw during the November fighting and had never returned to Goma. They were patrolling the makeshift roads and camped in villages. They were well-armed and seemed relaxed and unhurried.
Working—especially filming—in Eastern Congo is always challenging. The intensely beautiful landscape, verdant and lush, thrives off the intense heat and regular rainstorms. The lack of roads means perpetual dust or mud or both and the journeys are bone shaking. All enemies of the high-tech video cameras and computers we use today in the world of filmmaking. The locations are often inhospitable and the security situation is unpredictable and frequently dangerous.
I first came here in October 2001. As the world’s media rushed to the Pakistan/Afghan border in the hunt for Bin Laden I found myself blocked. I’d made a film about honor killing in Pakistan the previous year, and I was refused a visa. So I looked to other places. The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières told me, “You have to go to Eastern Congo—there’s terrible violence against women. Widespread rape, it’s like a virus and no one is reporting it.”
I went to a town called Shabunda. It’s just over an hour’s flight from the regional capital of Goma. Only a small twin-engine plane can cope with the improvised runways in the villages and towns, so you fly low. Climbing just high enough to pass over the smoldering Nyirangongo volcano, over the mountains and then seemingly, endless forest. Suddenly, a small fissure opens up in the jungle, a grass airstrip. I spent five days talking to women of all ages, young girls, young women, middle aged and even elderly women. They described what had happened openly because so many women were being raped. Médecins Sans Frontières estimated that 70 percent of the women in Shabunda had been violated at that time. They were forced to make a terrible choice—stay at home and starve, or go to the fields for food and be raped. What I heard over those five days made a profound impression on me. It has brought me back to Eastern Congo ever since.
I was back once more to make a film about rape. This time it was men from the Congolese army. They’d gone on a rampage and raped over 79 women and girls over a few nights in November of last year, 2012. From previous visits I knew where to find the survivors, those who bravely retell their ordeal so we can ensure their voices are heard. But this time I wanted to find the men, perpetrators of rape.
It proved to be a convoluted journey—the prison governors who used to grant access to the prison were now with the rebels; the officials didn’t seem to know what was going on. Those they said were imprisoned, arrested on suspicion for raping in Minova, hadn’t even been there. Finally we established that no one had been arrested. We were going to have to find serving soldiers and get them to explain why they raped. When we did hear their stories it was to prove chilling.
See more of Fiona’s Pulitzer Center project here. Watch her explain the project in the video above.
The photos above are from Pulitzer Center grantee David Rochkind’s portrait series on HIV positive Garifuna men and women. The community has the highest rate of HIV in the Western Hemisphere, but over the last 10 years, medicine and education have become more widely available. There is still a lot of stigmatization and discrimination however, but these brave men and women went public with their diagnosis to help change the status quo. Go here to see more portraits and read stories of the Garifuna.
National Geographic fellow and Pulitzer Center grantee Paul Salopek called into NPR from Saudi Arabia to recount the most recent leg of his seven year journey. Listen to Paul and view a slideshow of the walk so far here.
Image:Salopek reaches the end of the trail in Ethiopia and descends into Djibouti, on the Red Sea coast. Image by Paul Salopek/Courtesy of National Geographic. Ethiopia, 2013.
Paul will be online on Friday 5/10 at 1pm ET answering your questions. Follow along at #edenwalkchat.