Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Unhappy holidays: Ashura 2011

Anyone in need of  history lesson regarding Ashura, look here.  In Lebanon most of those who mark the event stick to ritual chest-smacking and non take it to the extremes as those in the southern town of Nabatiyeh. It's a bit of a gratuitous event for me, no real news value as such but visually it's certainly arresting.  Walking backwards amid a large group of excitable men vigorously waving large, sharp swords takes a modicum of faith; fortunately the inevitable spatters I had to clean off myself and my gear were all due to mourners.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Once were wrestlers

Actually the title of this post is total crap. These guys are very much still wrestlers and the brightest and best among them are being touted by some of the more optimistic voices as a way to offer an economic alternative to cattle rustling, an problem endemic across South Sudan. Commercialising the sport would be a small but useful boost for the world's newest country, which has hardly any economy to speak of. For the most part, the people have no cash; even if they did, hardly anything is produced here and there's limited options for transporting goods so it's not much like there is much to buy in the first place.
After two weeks here it seems that the country has a long, long, journey ahead of it - a fact acknowledged by almost every one we've spoken to - but there's a generally pervasive attitude that people are proud as hell of their new country and want to do right by it.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Telegraph live blog

Pics from the fighting in Tripoli's loyalist Abu Selim neighbourhood made it onto the Telegraph's live blog yesterday. If anyone reading the text is wondering why it matters if the prisoners were black or not, it's because many of Ghadaffi's troops were/are hired mercenaries from elsewhere in Africa. As a result black Africans in Libya are currently getting a hard time from the rebels. The reason why the Telegraph asked about their ethnicity here was to show that they weren't necessarily all hired guns from abroad.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Troubles in Tripoli

The fighting in Tripoli over the last few days has been mainly focused around the neighbourhood of Abou Selim, a very poor and staunchly pro Gadaffi area. Rebels troops have been slowly going through the area, clearing out snipers from the buildings. As of tonight it looked like they'd 'won' the battle of Abou Selim but with nothing to stop fresh loyalists taking up postions tonight it looks like this situation could drag out for some time.

A Gadaffi soldier is captured by the rebels

Above and below: residents are caught up in the fighting

Corpses of rebels captured by Gaddafi's forces are left on the street.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Five years on

This month Executive took a look at how Lebanon's industrial sector has been faring after it was devastated by Israeli air-raids during the 2006 war. Factories and industrial sites of all shapes and sizes were prime targets for Israeli bombers during the 34 day conflict.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Islamists vs Assad

Islamist groups in Tripoli – Lebanon's northern city – have been staging protests against the Syrian regime for a while but tonight marked their first demonstration in Beirut. The protesters apparently clashed with a  pro-Assad crowd early on in the event but were soon parted by a heavy security presence. There's a good report of how the evening played out here.

Assad supporters do their best to out-shout the Islamist demonstration, separated by  lines of security forces.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A small stand against Assad

After the violence that has met previous demonstrations of solidarity with the people of Syria, held in Beirut, the largest such gathering - held tonight in Martyrs' Square - went off pretty much without a hitch. I'd guess around 500 Lebanese and Syrians filled the monument area, holding candles and banners. Around 25 pro-Assad demonstrators turned up at the end and a short shouting match ensued between roughly the same number of anti-Assad demonstrators, with a strong police presence between the two. The 'anti' crowd were roughly hustled back into the middle of the monument area by ISF troops but regained their 'ground' on the outer slopes of the monument to hurl a few more chants before departing.

A demonstrator takes a quiet moment amid the anti-Assad protest in Beirut's Martyrs' Square

A small group of pro-Assad demonstrators picket the protest

ISF troops push anti-Assad demonstrators away from the pro-Assad picket in a bid to defuse the standoff

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A revolution comes unstuck

A pro-democracy protester faces off against angry residents in the Cairo neighbourhood of Abbasiyah

Egypt's revolution took a sorry turn on Saturday (July 23) night. Some thousand demonstrators left Tahrir Square and marched toward the headquarters of SCAF,  the military council currently not doing the greatest job in the world of governing post-Mubarak Egypt. The march was stopped by lines of soldiers behind barbed wire out side Noor Mosque in the neighbourhood of Abbasiyah. Around half an hour after the unstoppable force of the marchers met the immovable object of the military barricade, the inevitable occurred.  
I didn't see who threw what first, but soon enough the Tahrir crowd were embroiled in running street battles with local Abbasiyah residents, angered by the demonstrators' presence and apparently bolstered by the infamous 'baltigia' thugs. Rocks, bottles and bricks rained down from the surrounding rooftops and side streets as the Tahrir protestors responded in kind: trashing cars, store fronts and probably homes in the process. There may have been more protesters in Tahrir following the events of Saturday night than there had been for a while, but this seemed like no way to fix the waning popularity on the Jan 25th movement.  As a doctor spectating from the neighbouring hospital said to my colleague Remco Andersen of the Dutch paper Volkskrant for whom we were both on assignment in Egypt: "Egyptians fighting Egyptians. What a mess this has become."


Monday, 18 July 2011

Popping the cover cherry

So lil ol' me finally managed to get something printed on the cover of a magazine, which is nice. The subject, Othman Belbeisi, is just about one of the most interesting and genuine people you could hope to meet. After the 'shoot' he regaled me and my assistant-for-the-day  Naziha Baassiri over coffee and shisha with tales of the frankly crazy situations he faces on a near daily basis. As the head honcho of the International Organization for Migration in this neck of the woods, Othman is tasked with helping the region's domestic workers - possibly the most powerless of all the social strata in this part of the word -   get out of all kinds of scrapes, mostly  from escaping the clutches of crazy tyrants, be they Libyan 'Leaders' or Lebanese Madames. Anyway, JO's (a Jordanian magazine) own Cory Eldridge says it far better, see his story below, along with a nice nearly-candid shot I was able to take of Othman while enjoying his tales of derring do, an amazingly elderly grandfather and why Jordanian shishas are just better.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The workers of Qatar

 These images were taken during a whistle-stop visit to Qatar last weekend, all (apart from the supermarket shot)  were taken inside residency compounds for migrant workers – mostly  Nepalese, Sri Lankan and Indian. These guys' attitude to my presence was by far the most accepting I've come across – a refreshing change from the usual ladles of suspicion heaped upon photographers. What I saw of their living conditions ranged from basic to downright disgusting; considering the profits being reaped by the development firms for which they ultimately work this situation is both unacceptable and unnecessary.