Children: The forgotten future of Kashmir
Photos and text by Mubashir Hassan
Kashmir in the last 30 years has been reduced to a land of pain and
misery with thousands dead, disappeared, raped, detained and tortured.
When an anti-India insurgency began in 1989, the mighty forces that
India employed here crushed the rebellion. Since then more than 90,000
people have died and 8,000are disappeared.
The ongoing conflict mounted scars not only on the adults but the new
generation. The young children’s were badly affected with hundreds
killed, thousands blinded, amputated bodies, and detained in Indian
With more than half a million Indian troops stationed, Kashmir has the
distinction of being the most heavily militarized zone in the world. The
Indian forces enjoy special powers under laws such as the Armed Forces
special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives them immunity and impunity to
arrest or kill anyone on mere suspicion, without the fear of facing legal
The turmoil has devastated an entire generation. People have gone
through worst in these turbulent times. The story is all about the
Children’s who are the Future of Kashmir and a yearning of new
generation to live a life of peace and dignity.
The images shot by me are somehow my own childhood experiences, as
I grew in such condition seeing things periodically right from the time
when rebellion broke out in Kashmir.
By Mattea McKinnon
Nestled in the countryside, just beyond the dust and chaos of Siem Reap’s tourist traps and frantic
roads, is the village Prima. Here, one man has committed his life to improving the future of his local
community members, neighbours and friends.
Despite its booming tourism, Siem Reap remains one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, with 45% of the population living under the poverty line. There’s a clear divide between the flashy hotels and packed restaurants of the vibrant cities, to the bumpy roads and fruit stalls of the neighbouring villages.
And it’s there, down a chewed up dusty path, burnt orange in colour, surrounded by wooden huts and cows chomping lazily in the fields beside them, that you’ll find Jimmy Chan.
Born into poverty in 1987, Jimmy’s life started tough. Cambodia was still plagued by misery and war as it continued struggling to recover from the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. The radical communist
movement resulted in the killing of around two million people between 1972 and 1975.
He grew up witnessing the damage done to his country and the hardship it caused for his family and
those around him in Prima. He saw how poor the quality of teaching was and noticed how quickly
children from rural areas like his were falling behind. ‘After the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia didn’t have any more educated people,’ he says. ‘All the academics were killed.’ Jimmy made it his goal to do something to improve this situation. He says, ‘My aim is to help to change this country step by step, through education.’ He decided to start teaching English to children growing up in circumstances very similar to his own in a bid to offer them a better future.
He says, despite being hungry to learn, that these children face a multitude of obstacles in their search for education, ‘They come from a very poor background and the village schools aren’t a good standard. They don’t have a lot of free time as many of them have housework, siblings and animals to tend to.’ Many of the families in his village and surrounding communities can’t afford the materials to send their children to school, so they are forced to take them out of education at an early age.
‘Most people here work as fishermen or farmers. Some people are earning just a dollar a day,’ Jimmy
explained, ‘I’m trying to give everyone a chance.’ And since 2011, that chance has been seized by more and more people. Today, Jimmy teaches free of charge to 150 students over 6 nights a week from his classroom setup in his Mother’s backyard. It’s cramped, sweaty and there aren’t quite enough chairs for all of the students. Nobody seems to mind, however, with some keen beans even sitting cross-legged on the floor at the front in a bid to soak in every word of his lesson.
His first class is full of little ones, with kids as young as three venturing across the fields on their trikes to learn. Even at that age, their eagerness and happiness to be there is clear; a stark contrast to many students in Western schools today.
As the night draws in, hundreds of bugs creep from out of the shadows and buzz around the flickering florescent lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. The children aren’t phased. They stay engaged on their teacher, nonchalantly pulling flying beetles out of their hair while they absorb the information.
Jimmy draws on his own experiences in the hopes of opening their eyes to the possibilities education can offer them. Like many of his students, he didn’t have the funds to attend a top international school in the city but this didn’t deter him from wanting to succeed and become a fluent English speaker.
‘During the day when I was younger, I cycled to Angkor Wat temple to practice my English
with foreigners. At night I went to the city to speak with the international tourists,’ he says.
And it’s clear that determination and work ethic are still a driving force within him today. ‘I work every day as a tuk-tuk driver and tour guide from morning until evening before class. I normally wake up at 5am every day but sometimes before 3am for the sunrise tours’.
Jimmy’s efforts are paying off, having obtained a bachelor degree in English as a Foreign Language
and Teaching, his school is now on its way to being a state recognised institution. His message is clear: you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and study hard.
Back in the classroom, the air is thick with a mixture of humidity, hope and determination. The students are given an opportunity to come to the front and practice speaking to the class. Their efforts cause ripples of laughter, but it doesn’t stop them. They’re happy and grateful to be there.
One of the boys, aged 13, is headed for a scholarship to a top international school in the city. His
English is exceptional, making it easy to ask him what he thinks of the school and it’s teacher.
‘Jimmy’s a great teacher,’ he says. ‘He’s an inspiration to us all.’ When questioned on whether he thinks he’ll be able to stay on this path and get to where he’s headed, his answer is entirely relatable and, for a moment, he could be any kid, from anywhere in the world. ‘I hope so but I need to study harder and spend less time playing volleyball and football with friends’.
This wouldn’t be the first success story to come out of Jimmy’s school, though. One of his former pupils, Tida, who studied with him for four years, is currently at a university in Phnom Penh, the countries capital. She received a scholarship to study there and is working towards becoming the successful businesswoman she always dreamed of being.
Many of Jimmy’s students have the same or similar career hopes. During the class, students talk about their aspirations, with jobs such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, architects and hotel managers among the most popular. And as they head home at the end of the evening with another night of English lessons under their belts, they can be confident that they’re one step closer to their shot at that scholarship, degree or job.
With his work down for the night, Jimmy heads down the road a little way, towards a two-storey
concrete building which stands out amongst the huts and fields of Prima, not only because of it’s size, but also it’s colour; it’s painted violet.’This is the new school,’ Jimmy explains. ‘After a long time dreaming, it eventually became a reality. This new building has better facilities and will offer the chance to study English, Maths, Khmer and life skills.’ It’s a result of funding and fundraising from the international friends he has made over the years. After all he’s done for his community through teaching and charity work, such as helping to install water filters and paying for street lamps to light the way home for his students, it seems only fitting he be supported in this way.
But he remains humble, saying, ‘I’m so grateful for all the help we’ve received.’His gratitude and warmth are typical of the Khmer people. Despite their circumstances, they demonstrate a powerful resilience and maintain a reputation for being positive and welcoming.
Jimmy is the epitome of this, manifesting hope and spreading a belief that, no matter how the cards are dealt, your situation can get better. He incorporates this message into every one of his classes through a simple statement, repeated in cheers by him and his students: “Education will change your life”. It’s a lesson we’d all do well to remember.
Saumya Shah is a street photographer from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. He is sharing some of his street photographs taken in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Saumya says: “I love to capture emotions through my camera”.
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Covid-19 in Belgrade, Serbia
By Una Skandro
Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, located in the Western Balkans. As everywhere in the world, it is prescribed to wear a mask. Which to me as a photographer is a very historical film moment. And so I decided to make a photo film story for him in which the main actor is a mask. The photos were taken after 45 days of quarantine. On my instagram page whose link I put in the email you can see the whole story about Covid -19 in Belgrade.
The biggest social injustice during the quarantine was that we were closed for four days every week for 24 hours. After 45 days of such a life, I can freely say that people were lost when their right to free movement was finally restored. On the other hand, everyone tried in their own way to adhere to social distances and protection measures. Freedom of movement was restored to us, but again we were all alone. – Una
Dear His Majesty
By Avishkar Chhetri
After an arbitrary census was held in Bhutan (1989), the government of Bhutan displaced approximately 100,000 Southern Bhutanese (Lhotshampas) out of Bhutan. There are several explanations for the expulsion/displacement as well as the conflict between the Lhotshampa and the Northern government, which a series of protests in the late 80s were held within the country against the government’s repressive ‘One Nation One People’ policy; illegalising Nepali/Lhotshampa cultural practices under the social code of conduct: Driglam Namzha.
After the initial civil unrest in 1991, thousands of Lhotshampa Bhutanese arrived at the border of in Eastern Nepal from West Bengal, India by foot and trucks. By the mid-1990s these Bhutanese refugees had increased to the rough estimates of 100,000 individuals. As a response to the crisis after conflict with the continuously collapsing Nepali government, Bhutanese officials stated the Bhutanese refugees were, in fact, opportunistic economic-migrants rather than vulnerable refugees they self-claim to be. Thus the Bhutanese government has not repatriated the refugees.
Since their exodus, individuals have reports of torture, murder, arrests and rapes during the late 80s to early 90s in Bhutan. Furthermore, many of the individuals have remained as refugees within Eastern Nepal or India for over two decades to either look for repatriation or simply to find peaceful residency in their refuge. Whereas many refugees have resettled into third-nations to find a better life from their traumatic experiences.
As of today the Bhutanese government has not repatriate the displaced group in totality and continues to deny the legitimacy of their vulnerability and refugee status. As a consequence of lack of pictorial evidence, caused by the unavailability of video, photo or audio records, there is little evidence of the events that lead to the exodus other than personal accounts, and it remains a serious question of Bhutan’s dark past in isolation from the rest of the world.
All information here is based on the accounts of the government of Bhutan, the international communities, third-party witnesses, refugees and scholars. Any misinformation presented on this website will be removed as appropriate.
‘Speak Out’ is an ongoing photography project on women, survivors of domestic violence. Following the changes in in the UK of the 2013 legislation on domestic violence, where the definition of ‘domestic violence’ broadened to encompass different types of abuses, including financial, physical, psychological, sexual or emotional, the project ‘Speak Out’ highlights and raises awareness of those layers to many women in order for them to access a much needed help. Domestic abuse still remains a taboo across many cultures. Through her photographic project. Wamaitha brings to light the voices of women who have taken a stand and broken the silence about their personal experiences of domestic abuse and its devastating effects – and the journey to move forward, not as victims but survivors. Wamaitha will speak about the ‘Speak Out’ project on the 4th February 2019 in the next Photojournalism Hub Debate event.
“The question of ‘why doesn’t she leave the abusive relationship’ is not easy as it sounds. You become mentally dependent on that person” —– Lenka
“When you are a victim of psychological domestic violence, there is nothing to show.” — Nadine
Master – An Ainu Story
Master – An Ainu Story’ tells the the life story of an Ainu man – Kenji Matsuda, who grew up being discriminated against in his own land because of his Ainu heritage and gives a rare insight into the life of the indigenous people of northern Japan. There is very little documentation on the Ainu in English and few Japanese know much about them. It is thought that there may be up to 200 000 people of Ainu decent living in Japan today, but due to the history of discrimination against them only 10 percent of that number will admit to having Ainu roots. This exhibition looks at the personal story of a man who carried the legacy of shame from his grandparents generation and has tried to help revitalise this deep and rich culture that the Japanese government attempted to eliminate at the end of the 19th century. www.adamisfendiyar.com
The exhibition ‘Master- An Ainu Story’ is currently showing at The Brunei Gallery, SOAS in London until 15th December. Open everyday except Sunday & Monday from 10:30am – 5pm, and until 8pm on Thursdays.
Life after Chernobyl
In April 2015 I travelled to Ukraine to document the long-lasting implications of Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster for both the environment and the people 30 years after the disaster. The Chernobyl’s accident seems to have been forgotten by society. I wanted to give a voice to the lives of those carrying on with the poisonous legacy of Chernobyl. In my first trip, I visited the 30 km exclusion zone where around 200 people are still living. For my research I interviewed doctors working at the National Institute Cancer Research in Ukraine, NGOs working with victims of Chernobyl and scientists who are studying the DNA modifications both in plants and human beings. I become very interested in remote areas, which are still contaminated by radiation and where people have limited access to hospitals and doctors.
“Life after Chernobyl” portrays life both inside the 30 Km exclusion zone and Narodichi region, 50 km southwest of the nuclear plant. This turned out to be one of the worst hit areas by radiation but only detected five years later. With my collective “Food of war” we are helping to raise awareness of the Chernobyl’s accident through European exhibitions, talks and conferences. We have also collaborated with artists reflecting on the consumption of food in countries where radiation travelled after the 1986’s accident. Life after Chernobyl is an ongoing project that I would like to develop into a book and a short film.
To know more or would like to support this ongoing project, please follow this link:
Nastia Natsik with her daughters Iuliana, Madina and Lia in her family house in Khristinovka. Lia, 2 suffers from a brain tumour. Her father,Emil, 37, fled the conflict in Abkhazia (Geogia) when he was eleven, 3 years after Chernobyl’s disaster. Though evacuation was enforced in 1992, many families decided to stay.