Belgium has been rocked by extreme violence last week, with the brutal bomb blasts in the airport and metro of Brussels, killing and wounding so many people.
After following the news that day in what felt like a haze, making sure all my friends living and working in Brussels were safe, I knew things in Belgium will never be the same again. From now on there will be a before… and an after…
I won’t let fear stop me from taking another flight at Brussels airport and when visiting friends or places in town, I will still take the metro. But in the back of your mind, a thought will always, ever so slightly cross your mind…
Will I be safe…
And then today… Another heinous suicide attack in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 69 people, wounding hundreds.. mostly women and children. Targeted specifically on this day, Easter, against the Christian Minority of Lahore.
Another attack in a countless number of them that Pakistan has known over the years, where we don’t really hear world leaders speaking up.
Again religion being misused by extremists, to kill human beings who are enjoying an evening out in the park with their families, friends hanging out, generally people having a good time, not hurting anyone. Gone…
I’ve come to know many Christian families in Pakistan and photographed for a while in a Christian community in Islamabad a few years ago. And what I always try to do in all my work is show the person in my photographs. A humanity, shared humanity, so we don’t focus on our differences, but on what we have in common. Rich or poor, black or white, Muslim, Christian or Atheist, in the first place we are human being who want the same things in life.
Why? How can they kill in the name of anything really? On the basis of another God you worship? Another color of ones skin? Another language you speak? What makes them decide they have the right to choose that another life, another human being is not worth living and you can just kill them off? Just like that…
I’m just so sick of it all…
Today is World TB day, and it reminded me of an assignment I did 3 years ago with Doctors without Borders.
I traveled to Tajikistan, where I photographed children being treated by MSF for Multiple Drug resistant TB (MDR TB), a very long and hard process for these often very young children. Try explaining to a 6 year old to take multiple medicine every day that give multiple side effects for about 2 years but which are necessary to get cured …
This year’s World TB theme is ‘Unite to end TB’ and that title reminded me of photographing my first patient in Dushanbe. 18 year old Mijgona, who was the first fully cured MDR TB patient in MSF‘s TB program in Tajikistan, which was being celebrated with a small party.
United in celebrating. A happy moment and hopefully it was a reminder for some of the other children still in process of the treatment, that there was hope.
On this International Women’s day, I want to introduce you to an amazing woman that I am honored to call my friend.
Sheema Kermani, dancer, theatre director and activist from Karachi, Pakistan.
She lives in a country where women’s rights still have a long way to go. Where some laws might be changing slowly in favor of equal rights, but where implementing these laws is not really happening yet.
She lives in a place where people still look down upon the art of dancing, deemed as unislamic and improper.
All that doesn’t stop Sheema, who is a true force of energy, which is needed to keep motivated in advocating change that isn’t effecting in immediate results. She teaches the Indian classical dance art like Bharatanatyam and Odissi to young women and uses theatre to bring messages of equal rights, violence against women, rape etc to villages all over Pakistan where the majority of the people can’t even read or write.
In an interview with her she also says this: ‘The arts and the women of Pakistan have been the two major victims of Zia’s policies. The state introduced legal and social forms of control over women as part of its campaign of suppression and made women’s sexuality their business. State forces were preoccupied with women’s dress, their movements, their sexuality and their very presence in public spaces. In the name of religion, laws like the “Hudood Ordinances”, “Qisas”, “Diyat” and “Blasphemy Laws” were introduced and are prime examples of laws that devalue women, arts and humanity. The very first programme that was banned on PTV by Gen. Zia ul Haq was ‘Payal,’ a dance programme. But as it happens with anything that is banned, people always find a way to circumvent it. We do not announce our institution as a dance academy. We offer training in dance but call it movement classes. I run Tehrik-e-Niswan and we use dance as a movement for theatre of protest.’
Women like Sheema are an inspiration to me. They breathe energy and power. The power of women.
So… happy women’s day Sheema. Thank you for being a beautiful part of my life.
I want to wish you a wonderful and happy 2016.
Thank you so much for following my adventures and photographic encounters both at home and on the road. Here’s to continuing following your path and dreams.
“But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.” – from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami