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Posts Tagged ‘Osh’

City of Fire

December 2nd, 2014 No comments

City of Fire from Derek Flood on Vimeo.

New York- The above video project, City of Fire, about the ethnic violence that rocked southern Kyrgyzstan’s portion of the Ferghana Valley in June 2010 was one such unfinished project. Often termed a “tinderbox,” the Ferghana is a highly complex ethnic matrix that defies shorthand analyses. It’s not merely Kyrgyz and Uzbek-there are displaced Crimean Tatars from the Stalin period, North Koreans, ethnic Russians, Uighurs making up some of the purported 83 ethnic or ethno-linguistic identities in urban Osh alone.. My video does not provide such detailed background but is more of a belated visual artistic statement. It combines shaky footage from the long defunct Flip camera gadget with intimate DSLR portraits of those whose lives were upended by this at least partially orchestrated chaos.

As of late I’ve been getting a number of nagging creative monkeys off my proverbial back. For many years now, I’ve been traveling back and forth to a multitude of the world’s conflict zones. Before that, I was exploring ancient, medieval, and post-colonial ethnic and geopolitical frontiers in the ummah as a university student. Partying along the northern and western fringes of the still evolving EU in the late 1990s was never quite satisfying (as much fun as it was…and still is).

Over the past few months. I’ve been doing a long dreamt photography installation project called #fabledcity. This was an idea I’d had in my student days to educate and enlighten using large print photography as memetic street art. This dream faded  with the collapse of the World Trade Center when I was instantly transformed from an aspiring NGO photographer to sudden war photographer. As with my #fabledcity idea, I have more ideas than I ever actually getting around to finishing. I’m certainly not a skilled videographer but I occasionally shoot clips while I’m shooting still images. Sometimes I then put said clips into montages after I get home dedicated to those who’ve suffered. I may move on from one story to the next, often in vastly different regions of the world but each of these events always lives somewhere in my memory. I still have my fixer’s number from 2010 in my Blackberry. It’s hard to let go sometimes.

Now 4 1/2 years on, I set aside a few days to finally put this dated idea together for some creative closure. I’d write way more on this topic but I have to get back to my paid work otherwise I’d be happy to expand on this for hours…

An ethnic-Uzbek woman living in a Turkish Red Crescent tent on the ground where her home had stood. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

An ethnic-Uzbek woman living in a Turkish Red Crescent tent on the ground where her home had stood in Osh’s Cheremushki mahalla (a local idiom for a communal Uzbek neighborhood). ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

The Kalashnikov

The Marxist-imbued Mozambican flag bearing the Kalashnikov rifle. Source: Wikipedia

New York- The Avtomat Kalashnikova assault rifle, known popularly as the AK-47 or Kalashnikov, became one of the defining symbols of Third World national liberation movements and a physical manifestation of anti-imperialist thought in the second half of the twentieth century. The Kalashnikov appears most notably Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO)-designed flag of Mozambique pictured above. Hezbollah has a Kalashnikov-like weapon pictured on its yellow and green flag as a symbol of its persistent resistance to Israeli occupation and military hegemony. During the ‘summer war’ in July and August of 2006, the Ba’athist regime in Syria, one of the Shia group’s principal external state backers, had Hezbollah’s yellow banners flying up and down its Mediterranean coast to drum up Syrian domestic support as well as that of visiting GCC tourists. Syria’s cities were plastered with these what should be incongruous visuals that summer. Anyone who covers the developing world’s violent conflicts is likely intimately and awkwardly familiar with the Kalashnikov’s wood and metal sinews coupled with that unmistakable banana clip.

Wild jumble of Hezbollah and Ba'athist propaganda posters in Latakia, Syria on July 29, 2006. Note the visage of Imam Hussein to the left mixing in Shia religiosity. I find the central image of particular interest with Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah hoisting the aforementioned rifle of ambiguous provenance over his head. The image seems to suggest that if it came down to it, Nasrallah himself would pick up a gun and join the fight. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

An NTC rebel fighter loads a clip into his Kalashnikov near al-Aghela, Libya on March 4, 2011. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An FSA rebel fighter points his Kalashnikov toward the frontline in Ain al-Baida, Syria on January 29, 2012. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A pair of Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan (Northern Alliance) fighters tote their Kalashnikovs at a position at Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan at sunset on November 6, 2001. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

An Afghan National Police officer brandishes a Hungarian AMD-65 rifle (an AKM variant) while patrolling a bazaar in Kabul during Afghanistan's 2009 presidential elections. ©2009 Derek Henry Flood

On June 27, 2010, a sandal-clad Kyrgyz soldier inspects vehicles at a checkpoint in Osh, Kyrgyrzstan during that country's constitutional referendum vote on the devolution of presidential power in the wake of deadly inter-ethnic conflict in the Ferghana Valley earlier that month. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

In going through old photo portfolios this week I discovered an image I’d nearly forgotten I’d taken of a massive Soviet-style Kalashnikov monument on the road in central Iran. I love the photo not for its artistic merit obviously but for what it symbolizes. I tweeted the photo to C.J. Chivers, author of the definitive Kalashnikov book, The Gun.  In return he created a kind blog post featuring my snapshot which I’ve reposted below.

Screen grab from C.J. Chivers The Gun blog on my Iran photo. This monument appears to me to a fascinating mix of millenarian Iranian Shi'ism and Marxist realist public art. Stylistically the sculpture appears appears quite disjointed as if it was either created by more than one artist or was adapted or recycled from a previous monument. ©1999 Derek Henry Flood

Voice of America Appearance

July 15th, 2010 No comments

A Kyrgyz youth hired by French NGO ACTED white washing anti-Uzbek graffiti as UNHCR head Antonio Guterres is about to tough down at Osh airport. Within seconds of taking this photo I was detained by a Kyrgyz militiaman for doing journalism without accreditation and ejected from the Kyrgyz Republic. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

Abu Dhabi- Yesterday, I appeared on Voice of America’s Russian language news service talking about my experiences and observations in southern Kyrgyzstan before and after the June 27 referendum on the country’s future. I was interviewed by my Jamestown colleague Erica Marat who works for VoA to comment on a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday entitled, “Kyrgyzstan: Torture, Detentions Escalate Tensions.” Here is the link to the VoA article (in Russian), “Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies involved in the torture of ethnic Uzbeks” and here in English using Google’s imperfect translate.

Into Southern Kyrgyzstan

June 25th, 2010 No comments

Osh- I’ve made it to Osh in Kyrgyzstan’s troubled Ferghana valley of orchards and ethnic cleansing. The vote on the future of the interim government (and subsequently the October election that will follow) of Roza Otunbayeva will be held here tomorrow. The city is in pretty rough shape coming in from the airport, I observed block after block of torched Uzbek businesses, all of which I expected. What I did not expect however, was to see an Uzbek minaret burned (part of a medical facility stocked with the latest gear from  Germany) with its  charred hulk towering over a desolate commercial street. The destruction of a neighboring community’s medical or religious institution smacks of ethnic cleansing rather than just simple political rioting out of jealousy of a trading minority with a perhaps better buisness acumen than the  city’s Kyrgyz majority. The BBC is reporting that the Uzbek authorities are forcefully repatriating Uzbek refugees back inside Kyrgyzstan where I am sitting just five kilometers from the Uzbek border. This outbreak of ethnic violence is purportedly much worse that the pre-independence riots of 1990.  The difference is that with the absence of a ham fisted central authority, these two Turkic communities may not be able to live side by side for a very long time to come.