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The mining town of Chiatura, Georgia, surrounded by steep cliffs, is criss-crossed by a network of aging Soviet-era aerial tramways that are still in use today. In the early 20th century, after the U.S.S.R. annexed Georgia, Soviet authorities were intent on extracting the vast manganese deposits beneath Chiatura. In the 1950s, planners began work on what locals call the "Kanatnaya Doroga," or "rope road," that still connects almost every corner of the town. Today, while some of the cars have rusted away, 17 of the aging tramways remain in service. Photographer Amos Chapple (who previously took us inside Iran and Turkmenistan) recently visited Chiatura, where he became fascinated with the cable cars and the locals who operate and ride them daily. [20 photos]

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Photographers around the world looked up to the sky this past weekend to capture the "supermoon." This is the phenomenon when the moon makes its closest approach to Earth, appearing 30 percent brighter and about 14 percent larger than a typical full moon. It occurs about once every 14 months and is technically called a perigee full moon. At 221,823 miles from Earth, the supermoon was a feast for the eyes.-Leanne Burden Seidel (24 photos total)
A cotton candy vendor walks in from of the moon during the Los Angeles Angels' baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, June 22 in Anaheim, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)    

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Guy Martin

Two years ago, after being wounded in Libya, I made a promise to myself, my family, friends and loved ones to never cover war, civil unrest, protests or even a particularly robust political debate ever again. After witnessing the unfolding of the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Libya, my desire to witness and photograph violent events had never been lower. In short, I had turned my back on anybody and anything that I thought would cause me harm.

However, I do live in Istanbul — a huge, bustling Turkish metropolis that is currently at the center of mix of foreign policy dilemmas, political strife and internal debates.

And this weekend, I’ve witnessed a burgeoning protest movement against the construction of another mall and shopping precinct on one of the few slivers of green space in a city that is increasingly urbanized. Corruption seems to be endemic, and any spare green area is quickly developed without any public consultation.

I wanted to join the protestors to see for myself what was happening 25 minutes from where I live. As I stepped on the metro, I was hit with a knot in my stomach — that swirling, vomit-inducing feeling that only happens when you are utterly petrified. Istanbul’s locals aren’t known for being particularly outgoing, chatty or forthcoming on public transit, and Saturday was no different. It seemed just like any other normal day.

But then the train came to a stop, and every carriage erupted with loud clapping and banging on any object that came into view. It continued as the people made their way up the escalators into the burning mid-day heat.

For the next two days I followed them from the peripheries. Tear gas was fired, barricades were constructed, fires burned and stones thrown. Angry anarchists confronted police in Gezi Park — where I saw mothers bring their young children to witness a momentous event happening in their city.

These pictures were made with no assignment in hand and no particular desire to even make a coherent body of work. My purpose was to just witness and to observe with a sharper eye from experience.

Guy Martin is an English documentary photographer living in Istanbul. Represented by Panos Pictures, Martin previously covered the Caucuses, Georgia and Russia as well as the uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

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David Mdzinarishvili

But in his school he does stick out because there are no others: Bacho is the only child at elementary school in the Georgian village of Makarta.

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Maria Turchenkova

Despite the reduction of large-scale military operations 10 years ago in Chechnya, a guerrilla war waged by Islamic fundamentalists rages on, and has brought a striking level of violence and bloody insurgency to the neighboring Caucasus republic of Dagestan.

For decades, and in much of the world’s eyes, all the news coming from the North Caucasus seemed focused on the cataclysm in Chechnya. Now, with Grozny slowly emerging from decades of chaos, Dagestan – the largest, most heterogeneous and, today, the most violent republic in the North Caucasus region – is raising its international profile, but for all the wrong reasons.

With a population of about 3 million people, Dagestan — bordering Chechnya, with the Caspian Sea to the east and Georgia and Azerbaijan to the south — is comprised of more then 40 ethnic groups. Ethnic Russians make up roughly four and half percent of the republic’s total population, while political power is held mainly by the two largest groups: the Avar and Dargin, both of whom practice Sufism, or the region’s traditional brand of Islam. Recently, however, Salafism — a puritanical form of Islam practiced largely in Saudi Arabia — has begun to make inroads, further complicating the already tangled political and religious picture.

Split by seemingly intractable social and religious differences and with almost a half of its territory locked down under a special security regimen (CTO, or “counter-terrorist operation”), Dagestan’s populace endures martial law, rigid curfews and random searches enforced by the Russian military.

For most Russian citizens, meanwhile, the North Caucasus is peopled not by neighbors or citizens but by stereotypes. A mountain region, alien and dangerous, it is populated (in the Russian popular imagination) by suicide bombers and terrorists. Period.

The Jamaats—local Islamic societies—comprise the vast majority of active anti-Russian Islamist fighters in Dagestan. Numbering somewhere around 500, by best estimates, Jamaats manage to replace those killed in action with newly joined militants in a remarkably timely manner. The reason for this renewable source of fighters is, in fact, rather simple: namely, the fundamentalists find fertile ground to propagate their ideas in the region’s remote, mountainous villages — as well as via the Internet. As the Dagestan justice system is largely ruled by nepotism, Russian law and order doesn’t have real power and most people find it impossible to receive justice from local authorities. Jamaats’ leaders, meanwhile, claim to be the “legitimate authority of Dagestan” and are candid about their aim of establishing a “fair society” based on Shari’a law. As the years pass, more and more people convert to Salafism.

Dagestan’s society is still deeply split. The gap between the richest and the poorest is enormous — and, like everywhere else, is rapidly growing. Conservatives, including many traditional Muslims, who still feel an allegiance to Russia certainly do not accept the “Islamization” of their country and their culture, while many others simply vote with their passports — emigrating from the republic entirely. The men, women and children who stay behind must somehow find ways to endure in the midst of their country’s hidden war.

Maria Turchenkova is a freelance documentary photographer based in Moscow. She was recently selected to attend the 2013 World Press Joop Swart Masterclass.

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Hackers-darkness_thumb

Last week, Leon Panetta stoked some fears and drew bloggy jeers when he warned of an incoming “cyber Pearl Harbor.” The gloomy song and dance, which we’ve heard played out so many a time now, made a chorus of hackers’ alleged ability to disrupt transit lines and shut down the power grid. As Motherboard’s Mr. Estes pointed out, the faux-somber debacle was mostly designed to scare folks into supporting the Obama administration’s drive for internet security legislation.

And it might work. After all, we’re innately terrified of a world without electricity at this point; so much so that we’ve created an entire subgenere of fiction, the unplugged dystopia, to imagine its terrors. There’s been a steady drumbeat of forceful warnings of cyber attacks that could “cripple” the US grid: from Obama himself, from the NSA general who said over the summer that the probability of a crisis is mounting, and from the military, who says that Anonymous, the hacker group, would soon be capable of shutting down the entire U.S. electrical grid.

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