Afghanistan through the eyes of photographers – an exhibition at the UN

Afghanistan through the eyes of photographers – an exhibition at the UN

“Afghanistan: Everyday in the Midst of Conflict”

Afghanistan through the eyes of photographers – an exhibition at the UN

An old man sits on a day-bed in an empty plains, reading his newspaper against a backdrop of mountains. A one-legged boy swings a cricket bat, playing in the streets of Kabul. A group of burka-clad women stand between rows of tents talking; another group with earmuffs over their headscarves practices shooting handguns at a police school.

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These are just a few of the images that UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) photographers Eric Kanalstein and Fardin Waezi have captured in their work in Afghanistan. A collection of their photographs, titled “Afghanistan: Everyday in the Midst of Conflict”, is now on display at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Along with photographs from Darfur, Sudan taken by African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) photographer Albert Gonzalez Farran, they are part of the exhibit “On the Ground: UN Peace Operations in Darfur and Afghanistan”, which opened Wednesday night.

The exhibit, hosted by the Departments of Field Support, Peacekeeping Operations and Public Information, puts a human face on the millions of civilians caught up in the conflicts in Darfur and Afghanistan. By capturing through the photographer’s lens ordinary people going about their daily lives – working, resting, or simply surviving – the exhibit showcases, in a very immediate way, both the driving forces behind the UN’s work in these areas and some of its impacts on individual people.

“At the UN we talk about terrorism, about civilian casualties, about a ‘political solution’ to war… but ultimately, we are talking about the people in these photos, millions of ordinary Afghans, who want and deserve to live happy, healthy lives,” said H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin in his welcoming address. “These people are the losers in war, but the winners in peace.”

Ambassador Tanin spoke as part of an opening ceremony for the exhibit, thanking UNAMA for helping improve the lives of Afghan civilians, but also using the pictures to highlight that much work remains to be done, such as poverty alleviation or improving access to education. “Your efforts make a difference not to an abstract Afghan nation or government,” he said, “but to ordinary human beings.”

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA Mr. Staffan de Mistura concurred with this sentiment, and also praised the photographers for their valuable and courageous work. Also speaking were representatives of UNAMID, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyotaka Akasaka.

“On the Ground: UN Peace Operations in Darfur and Afghanistan” will be open until the end of July, and is accessible to the public through the visitors’ entrance of UN Headquarters.

Tse Yang Lim

7 July 2011

Photographs by Nick Esmati

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