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Original author: 
Aryn Baker

Presidential elections are always a time for hope. Nowhere is that more clear than in Iran, where a fervent desire for change is tempered by fears that the people’s voice might not be heard, or, worse yet, altered through fraud and manipulation. Still, Iranians thronged the election rallies, vibrant and noisy affairs that took place in gymnasiums and sports stadiums across the country. As Election Day loomed, candidates, get-out-the-vote volunteers and Iran’s own Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei exhorted citizens to vote, and they did, in record numbers. Polling station hours were extended late into the evening of June 14th, and, unlike the elections of 2009, when the results were announced almost immediately, the count took an agonizing 24 hours.

But on Saturday evening, hope blossomed into joy. Hassan Rouhani, the sole moderate on the ballot, exceeded all expectations to sweep a field made up of five other candidates, winning 51% of the vote and narrowly avoiding a runoff.  Iranians celebrated in the streets with dancing and music, an infectious jubilation that led even the White House to grudgingly admit that despite expectations for fraud, the Iranian people finally had their say.

Newsha Tavakolian is based in Tehran. LightBox previously featured Tavakolian’s portrait series, Look.

Aryn Baker is the Middle East bureau chief for TIME. Follow her on Twitter @arynebaker.

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

EPF 2012 Finalist

 

Ayman Oghanna

Yesterday’s War, Today’s Iraq

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My father left Iraq in the 1970s. He would not have recognised it, by the time I had gotten there. It was 2009 and Iraq had nearly car-bombed, kidnapped and executed itself into oblivion.

‘Cultures that may seem as durable as stone’ wrote Anthony Shadid, ‘can break like glass, leaving all the things that held them together unattended.’
And Iraq was broken. It’s shattered pieces unattended by the humming of generators and of U.S. drones overhead. Trust lay only in your family, in your tribe, in your sect. If you were lucky enough to be part of a sectarian majority, it lay in your neighborhood – now purged of rival tribal threats, both real and perceived.

The myth of Iraq a proud country, had stopped in my father’s time. Asir al thahabi. The golden age. Before Saddam, before the eight-year-war with Iran, before Kuwait, before sanctions, the myth before the fall. Today’s Iraq is many fractured pieces. A simmering federation of Sunni, Kurd, nationalistic and pro-Iranian Shia, whose first civil war has ended, whose second seems just at the corner. It’s a nation of many nations, lots of little failed states underneath the veil of a much larger one.They are identities by no means new. They have been laying dormant since the fall of the Ottomans, created alongside the artificial state carved out by the victorious imperial powers.

The goal of my project is to confront the multiple identities in Iraq today and examine their relationship to the greater Iraqi state. I have been living and working in Iraq since 2009 searching for a glimpse of the country that my father had left behind. I can’t see it. Perhaps it had never existed in the first place. A necessary nostalgia for better days, during such consistently disappointing ones. I don’t know yet.

If it does exist, however, it is within these smaller communities. Each vying for a future in the new Iraq. The project I am trying to fund, is an attempt to build a cultural narrative of the new Iraq.

 

Bio

Ayman Oghanna, 26, is an independent photographer and journalist working in the Arab World. A British-Iraqi, born and raised in London, he now lives out of Istanbul. His photography, writing and multimedia stories have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Sunday Review, Businessweek, The Guardian, The Economist, Time and Vice Magazine. He is currently based between Istanbul and Iraq, where he continues to work on ‘Yesterday’s War, Today’s Iraq’ an on going project on life in the new Iraq.

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Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Inmate Julie Harper, center, marches with members of America's only all-female chain gang early in the morning at Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arizona. Photos taken in May 2012 and made available to msnbc.com on June 28, 2012.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

The chain gang work in 104 degree heat, hacking at weeds at Bartlett Lake.

Photos and text by Jim Lo Scalzo, European Pressphoto Agency — It's a scene reminiscent of the Deep South at the turn of the 20th century: A dozen prisoners in pinstripes working by the side of the road, their legs shackled together and their brows dripping with sweat. Yet this is present-day Phoenix, and the prisoners are all women.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Kelly DeGrose, center, listens to a detention officer lecture them after a day's work on the chain gang.

With a few exceptions, chain gangs were abandoned in the U.S. by 1955. But Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes metropolitan Phoenix, reintroduced the practice in 1995, and today the county runs the only all-female chain gang in the country. Women volunteer for the duty, looking to break the monotony of jail life. Most are in for minor convictions - a DUI sentence, a probation violation - and are housed at the Tent City, a collection of surplus military tents erected next to Maricopa County's Estrella Jail to ease overcrowding. 

Previously on PhotoBlog: Rikers Island inmates graduate with high school diplomas

The "chain girls," as they call themselves, gather at 6 a.m., when detention officers drive them to that day's work site. It could be a local park to pick up trash, a highway roadside to pull weeds, or even a county cemetery to help bury the indigent. Though summer temperatures in Phoenix can rise above 110 degrees, inmates volunteer with surprising eagerness.

"It's worth it just to get out for a few hours," says Mickey Haas, who is serving time for a DUI. Fellow chain girl Honi Simmons agrees, adding: "It comes with a good story. I don't think people will ever believe I was in a chain gang."

Follow @msnbc_pictures

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Members of the chain gang line up for work early in the morning at Estrella Jail.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Members of the chain gang are seen in a bus driver's mirror en route to White Tanks Cemetery to help bury the indigent.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

The chain gang help bury an unclaimed body at White Tanks Cemetery, an indigent burial site in the desert west of Phoenix.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Inmates Alma Madrigal, left, and Jennifer Thomas, right, help Lisa McCorvey roll up her sleeves before a day's work.

Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Members of the chain gang clean the dust off their boots after another day's work in the desert.

 

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Today marks the halfway point of the 70-day Olympic Torch relay through the United Kingdom. Since arriving in Cornwall on May 18, the flame has been carried through villages and cities, across lakes and mountain ranges, on foot, by train, on horseback, and through the air, from Cornwall to the Shetland Islands. By the time it reaches London to launch the 2012 Summer Olympics in 35 days, the torch will have passed through the hands of 8,000 torchbearers. [31 photos]

Torchbearer Peter Jack holds the Olympic Flame aloft on the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim on day 17 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on June 4, 2012 near Belfast, Northern Ireland. (LOCOG via Getty Images)

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Yesterday was the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day of the year when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. People around the world are welcoming the start of the new season by enjoying (or avoiding) the hot weather. In southern England, where yesterday brought heavy rains, pagans gathered at Stonehenge and reveled in spite of the downpour. Collected here are a handful of images of the beginning of Summer, 2012. [31 photos]

A Bengal tiger, sprayed with water by a zookeeper on a hot summer day at the Birsa Munda Zoological Park in Ranchi, India, on May 30, 2012. Zoo authorities are helping the animals cope with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius (104F) by providing coolers, special roofs and regular hose-downs. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

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Ebrahim Noroozi has been photographing executions in Iran, where roaring crowds gather to watch the spectacle. He said he hopes his pictures will one day be part of a broader debate: "I want to show the reality in a way that hits you in the face and threatens you severely."

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