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Revolution

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The last time TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I were in Libya together, we were covering the fall of Tripoli to Libyan rebel forces, near the end of an eight-month civil war. We had covered the revolution since February 2011, moving along desert frontlines, into war-ravaged homes, and finally, up to the gates of Muammar Gaddafi’s abandoned villas in Tripoli. Our coverage last Fall took us from intelligence headquarters to the scenes of massacres and on to new front lines. It was chaos—full of discovery and excitement for the rebels and newly liberated civilians—but chaos, nonetheless. No one knew when Gaddafi would be found, or what the future would bring when they found him.

And it wasn’t until four months after Gaddafi was captured and killed—four months after the official end of the war—that we returned to Libya. This time, we didn’t sneak across any borders, nor did we duck from any bullets. We flew into a calm and functioning Benghazi airport, surrounded by flower bushes.

Libya is not as we left it. Driving across the country, we visited old friends and new acquaintances. We discovered that the Esbaks, a family of revolutionaries who I met last February in the Green Mountains of Libya’s east, had lost their youngest son since I last saw them—killed by a mortar shell on the eastern frontline. We discovered they had a new set of politics as well: after decades of dictatorship, they were already fed up with the transitional government and they wanted to see Libya divided into states.

In every town we stopped in, we met rebels we used to know—men who could now be called militia members. They had retained their weapons and their autonomy. The people who defeated the old system may be the biggest threat to stability in the new one. In Misrata, a militia leader named Mohamed Shami took us to the city’s largest prison. There, the men who used to be winners are now the captives. Their overlords are the rebels they once fought and repressed. One of the prisoners we met is Sayyed Muammar Gaddafi Dam, the late dictator’s cousin. We watched as Shami, the militia commander, posed for a picture with the frightened Gaddafi at his side.

There is no justice in the new Libya—but the former rebels are quick to note: there wasn’t much justice in the old Libya either. The prisoners are awaiting trials. Some have been waiting a year. But in the mean time, the conditions aren’t so bad, the militias say—at least torture isn’t as rampant as it was under Gaddafi.

At times our journey was certainly eerie. We stopped in all the places where we had been shot at covering the war. Human remains are still submerged in the sand at one of the first rebel camps that Gaddafi bombed from the air, outside the oil refinery at Ras Lanuf. We stood in the place where our journalist friends and colleagues had been killed in Misrata; and we interviewed former loyalists on the road in Sirte where a rocket-propelled grenade had missed my car and struck someone else. Our jaws dropped when we walked through Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli. It had been smashed and burned to oblivion, as if the entire country had vented 42 years of rage on a single spot. Perhaps noticing our shock, a 12-year-old boy leaned out of a car window and asked me: “Did you ever expect to see this?” His introduction led us to a conversation with his family, and Yuri photographed the boy and his brother, as they explored what was once the dictator’s, now theirs.

We got the feeling, as we moved from town to town, that the country was in the midst of a great, collective exhale: that Libyan journalists and politicians were just starting to find their footing on new and unfamiliar turf; that families were lifting their heads from beneath the rubble to take a look around; that, despite all the guns in the hands of lawless militias, people were at least shooting at each other less often.

We drove across the country humming along to Libyan revolutionary hip-hop, and stopping to talk with picnicking families, religious leaders, refugees, village sheikhs, and oil workers. Some people wanted revenge; others had already taken it. A lot of people were angry that the money wasn’t flowing fast enough and that they were compelled to rebuild their war-ravaged homes and businesses with money from their own pockets.

But we didn’t find the same despair that had filled the eyes of the young men we encountered in blood-spattered field hospitals just months before. Museums have been erected to commemorate the battles fought and the martyrs lost. Schools are back in session—even the shell-shocked ones. Hundreds of former rebels are training to join the new national army. Old friends are now talking about tourism and business. We heard women discussing women’s rights and lecturing men on politics—a newfound agency that they’ve capitalized on since the revolution. Where the weak transitional government is failing, ordinary citizens are helping one another rebuild. Young people are getting creative. And the most marvelous thing we found as we traveled was optimism; optimism of the wild, determined sort. Libya is set to hold its first democratic election in June. No one knows how many bumps lie in the road up ahead. But despite all those challenges, and the years of heartbreak behind them, the Libyans we met on our road trip seemed hopeful.

Read more in this week’s issue of TIME: Hope Among the Ruins

Abigail Hauslohner is TIME’s Cairo correspondent.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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Residents of the besieged neighborhood of Khadeiye run through the streets to avoid snipers.  Sheets are hung and moved as the snipers move to try and block their view .
One of the members of the Free Army of Syria, and formerly a soldier in the Syrian Army, looks around a corner after hearing shots fired nearby in Khadeiya.  The collection of volunteers guard their neighborhood from inside houses as the Syrian Army fires at them from across the streets and high locations.
A well known wedding singer, whispers the words of a revolutionary song into the ears of children so they can sing them.
Water, and electricity have been cut since Khadeiya was taken by the opposition.  Now electricity is snuck in on clandestine power lines and water is distributed from old wells.
A member of the Free Syrian Army approaches the border of Khadeiya where the Syrian Army is firing on them.  Scattered machine gun fire can be heard coming from both sides but the real fear comes with the sound of artillery and RPGs.
Families have made a refugee camp out of an orphanage in Homs.  The only requirement is that a member of the family must have died or be in jail.  This room houses three families from beside Baba Amr, Homs.  After the fled the violence their houses were completely ransacked, allegedly by pro-government thugs.
In a house on the border of Baba Amr, Homs bullet holes riddle the walls and furniture.  Blocks of the city were abandoned and most shops were closed.
A small party is held in the center of Khadeiya where men and their children  come mainly to sing anti-government songs and dance.
One of the soldiers of the Syrian Free Army is brought into a makeshift hospital after he was hurt in an explosion.  The small clinic is the only one left after 3 other hospitals and clinics were shelled.
One of the officers of the Free Syrian Army sits with his family in their home in Khadeiya.  He is unusual for keeping his family in the middle of the bullet riddled neighborhood.  But he is too well know as a member of the opposition and as he says
Many of the remaining people and cars of Kahdeiya have been shot multiple times.    This soldier showed me 3 bullet holes.  One doctor showed me the 9 times he has been wounded while retrieving patients in their makeshift ambulance.
The main square of Khadeiya is pitted with holes from mortars and explosives.  At one time this square was used for organizing anti-government protests where many were originally killed.
A small party is held in the center of Khadeiya where men and their children  come mainly to sing anti-government songs and dance.
One of the residents of Khadeiya, Homs was shot in the legs by a sniper after leaving the evening protest.   After being patched up in the clinic he returned to the protest to tell his friends he is ok.
Damascus, Syria

Draft.

This report does not give an accurate description of all Syria’s current complexity. It is a look at one opposition neighborhood for one day.

After a year of intense fighting and low level suppression many parts of Khaldeya have bullet holes, the cars, the walls, the water tanks, the people. This suburb of Homs has been emptied of families and filled with bullet holes. The doctor that runs out to pick up wounded has 9 bullet holes. Sheets are hung in the street to block the view of snipers are like swiss cheese.

I was given one of the rare 7 day visas to enter Syria as a journalist. I wasn’t the best journalist to be sent, my expertise is Egypt, my Arabic language is Egyptian. But thanks to a good fixer and some digging we were able to travel around Homs relatively freely.

Getting into Khaldeya required a local guide and some quick driving down a road with a history of snipers. The bullet holes in other cars confirmed that sometimes they were shot. While in the neighborhood shots ring out at irregular intervals

The rebels are very aware of the Syrian government’s storyline that they are gangs of terrorists and were more than willing to show us around. Often when I start talking with a soldier he will pull out his army ID and go into the story of how he escaped.

Most of the soldiers claim that their weapons came from defecting soldiers, though they have had to buy ammunition from anywhere they can.

There was one former Syrian Army officer who told of how his brother was walking home from the first protest in Khaldeya when a sniper shot him through the stomach. At that moment he decided to defect and join the rebels. Now he is too well known so he stays with his family, unwilling to send them away. “I would rather have them die here with me than away from me” he says.

To defend their neighborhood the volunteers have smashed holes through the walls of the homes. A maze of paths are opened and closed as they move around the inside. As I move with them they aren’t so afraid of bullets as of the RPGs.

In one of the few houses with electricty a few volunteers write songs for the evening’s protest. It’s an almost daily event of a few men and children gathering in a central location. A couple of famous wedding singers lead the festivities.

One of the residents left the party early, half an hour later he was driven back in an ambulance, with fresh bandages. A sniper had shot him through the legs on his way home.

The rebellion in Syria is one of the most complex of the revolutions of the Arab spring. It isn’t a peacefull protest in a square, or violent fight from east to west, or easily described along majority, minority sectarian lines. It has many fronts, many divided families, is partially peaceful, partially violent, and has no clear majority of people or power. It also has many neighbors that want to influence the outcome.

This complexity is undercovered partially because there were relatively few foreign journalists based in Syria to start with and now it is excedingly hard for journalists to get in for long term coverage.

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Among the ‘stans of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is something of an outlier. Remote and mountainous, the tiny republic is home to the region’s only parliamentary democracy and a vibrant civil society. Not once, but twice, its people have taken to the streets to force out their rulers—a considerable exception in a part of the world dominated by iron-fisted, post-Soviet apparatchiks.

Yet Kyrgyzstan is also a microcosm of Central Asia as a whole. A significant proportion of its impoverished population ekes out a living as migrant labor abroad. The rusted traces of a Soviet past line its cities and towns, while Moscow’s long history of gerrymandering borders and resettling whole communities gives it a complex, volatile ethnic make-up. Tensions between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of the country flared in 2010 and riots led to as many as 2,000 deaths. Its legacy still smolders.

Over the span of some four years, French photographer William Daniels chronicled Kyrgyzstan’s tumultuous progress. His work, entitled Faded Tulips, documents the false dawn of democracy: in 2005, the country’s quasi-authoritarian regime was toppled in an uprising hailed the “Tulip revolution.” But the man drafted in to oversee democracy’s blooming across the Central Asian steppe—President Kurmanbek Bakiyev—proved to be cut from the same cloth as petty despots elsewhere in the region.

Allegations of corruption mounted as well as reports of voter fraud and intimidation of dissidents and the media. In 2007, Daniels arrived in a Kyrgyzstan where the illusion of democratic change was beginning to slip. He was on hand in 2010 when protests broke out against the Bakiyev regime, eventually forcing the putative strongman to flee into exile in Russia. Months later, as an interim government tried to right Kyrgyzstan’s listing ship, ethnic riots between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the country’s south led to hundreds of deaths and a geo-political crisis. Neighboring countries closed their borders, while up to 400,000 people—mostly Uzbeks—fled their homes. Daniels’ pictures of charred, gutted neighborhoods in the southern city of Osh—an ancient Silk Road town that’s long been a rich crossroads of peoples and faiths—bear stark testament to how lifelong neighbors can wake up one day as enemies. “I particularly tried to understand how this small country could descend so quickly into extreme violence,” Daniels says.

But while much has yet to be reconciled following that spasm of violence, there are real glimmers of hope in Kyrgyzstan. The country’s seemingly successful transition into a multi-party parliamentary system has weaned it off the grip of a domineering executive—the main impediment for real political change elsewhere in Central Asia. But the country’s economy is still in desperate shape, and new President Almazbek Atambayev, who has so far engendered cautious optimism among most analysts, has to steer Kyrgyzstan through a maze of competing American, Russian and Chinese interests. “We will see how and where Atambayev will lead the country,” says Daniels. His photos, though, show a Kyrgyzstan as haunted by the past as it is uncertain for its future.

William Daniels is a photographer based in Paris. See more of his work here. He is currently engaged in a crowdfunding effort to publish Faded Tulips as a book; the drive is still ongoing, but the funding goal was reached while Daniels was reporting for TIME in Syria. Read about his harrowing escape from that situation here on LightBox.

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A photographer and a video journalist collaborated to document young Egyptian activists, their role in the Arab Spring and the realities many failed to foresee.

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Reflections on an Unfinished Revolution

Via New York Times: The youth of Egypt and the slow pace of change, one year on from the revolution.  By Reportage photographer Ed Ou.

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Sometimes words just aren’t enough. We realize that’s a bold statement for a news magazine to make. After all, words are our currency. Yet we know that there are times when, to fully tell the stories that need to be shared, we need more than words.

This year it was as evident as ever. From the tsunami in Japan, to the war in Afghanistan, to the Arab Spring, our reporters, columnists and correspondents worked tirelessly to bring you the stories that matter. But beyond the words and interviews that filled our pages, our photojournalists sought out the pictures that told a deeper story. Whether they were behind the political scene like Diana Walker as she photographed Hillary Clinton aboard a military plane or risking life and limb like Yuri Kozyrev as he captured the conflict of Libya’s revolution, TIME’s dedicated photographers brought the stories to life.

In March, acclaimed TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey traveled to Japan to capture images in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. A veteran photojournalist, even he found himself at a loss for words when trying to describe the country’s devastation. Yet in his hauntingly bleak images of ravaged towns and wounded families, we glimpsed what language failed to convey — and it was heart breaking.

TIME‘s words offer the important facts, clear-eyed insights and sharp analysis needed to understand the story. Our photojournalism offers the chance to not only see, but also feel the story. —Megan Gibson

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