Srebrenica

Today former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been found guilty of genocide for the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica and has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Please have a look at my work from Bosnia about the aftermath of the massacre:

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0549A woman is fainting and another is weeping during the burial of a close relative at the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0376A Bosnian woman is mourning at the coffin of a relative killed during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide prior to the mass burial at Potocari on the 19th anniversary.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-9025Srebrenica. There are new forests all along the former frontlines which are still contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance.

A deminer from NPA holding human remains.A deminer from NPA holding human remains.

Human remains found in a mined area near Srebrenica.Human remains found in a mined area near Srebrenica.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-9993Human remains including a skull, bones and small fragments found near Srebrenica. After 20 years on surface it is hard to extract any DNA.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0529Coffins with the human remains of two newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre are carried to their resting place.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0534The coffins with the human remains of Nermin (19) and Samir (23) Selimovic who were killed during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre are carried to their resting place.

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Bosnia_MichaelBiach-9987Dragana Vučetić, Senior Forensic Anthropologist at the International Comitee for Missing Persons (ICMP), with human remains found in a secondary mass grave.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-9135A deminer from NPA showing clothings found during demining activities in the Srebrenica area.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-9143A toothbrush from a missing person found during demining activities. ICMP is collecting all clothings and human remains in order to identify missing persons.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0540Close relatives are burying the recently identified remains of Nermin (19) and Samir (23) Selimovic who were killed during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0400Bosnian women mourning at the coffin of a relative prior to the mass burial at Potocari on the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

The town of Srebrenica.The town of Srebrenica.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-0637A mother is weeping at her son’s grave minutes after the burial at the 19th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide where 175 newly identified victims have been laid to rest.

Bosnia_MichaelBiach-9184A young Bosnian woman is walking next to some of the tombstones at the Potocari memorial cemetary.

Mount Popa – Home of the Nats

Mount Popa in Burma is the supposed home of the 37 most important Nat spirits and therefore the major Nat pilgrimage site. According to animism believe Nats were human beings who met violent deaths and then became spirits of natural forces, such as water, wind or stones. While Buddhism is mostly concerned with the dealing of future lives, Nat spirits are asked for everyday problems. Every village has a Nat shrine where offerings can be made. Nats are know as being very moody and capricious. In addition to asking for good fortune, offerings are also made to avoid harm by those Nats who are considered to be angry. Regular ceremonies are held by spiritual medium dancing into trance to be able to communicate with the spirits. Transgender are seen as more likely to be able to communicate with Nat spirits.

MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-6054A pilgrim is being photographed from a platform in front of Taung Kalat with its majestic Tuyin Taung Pagoda.

MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-6018Mount Popa, seen from top of Taung Kalar, is seen as the home of the 37 most important Nats in Burma.

MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-5974Buddhist pilgrims worshipping the Nats.

MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-5982Mount Popa is the home to 37 Nat spirits. Regular ceremonies are held by spiritual medium dancing into trance to be able to communicate with the spirits. Transgender are seen as more likely to be able to communicate with Nat spirits.

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MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-6038Taung Kalat with its majestic Tuyin Taung Pagoda.

MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-6063Pilgrims and worshipper on their way to Taung Kalat and Mount Popa.

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MountPopa_Burma_MichaelBiach-6013A young Burmese boy is ringing the bell at Mount Popa. In Buddhism the bell symbolizes Buddha’s voice.

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The Howling Dervishes

Every year in March members of the Rifai’i order gather in their holy shrine, the tekke, to celebrate Nevruz, an annual holiday marking the beginning of spring and therefore the first day of the new year. The date also marks the birthday of Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed. In Shiite belief Mohammed has chosen Ali to lead the Muslims and Sufis see Ali as their founder. For Sufis Ali is the origin of a continuous transmission of the spiritual heritage of Allahs Prophet Mohammed. At the climax of this celebration the Sufis will use centuries-old metal skewers to pierce their hips and cheeks.

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Sufis are also known as Dervishes. The term dervish derives from the word dari which means door. Literally a Dervish is someone who walks from door to door. In ancient times Dervishes were known to be poor and lived very ascetically. Therefore they were often called faqir which means poor in front of Allah.

The collective prayer, called dhikr, is a way for Dervishes to make themselves aware of the permanent presence of God. Literally dhikr means remembrance of God, normally by the constantly repeating of God’s name. Every Sufi order has its own way of celebrating a dhikr, there is no strict rule of process.

The special dhikr of the Rifai’i order during Nevruz starts with singing and chanting. Dervishes permanent repeat God’s name and constantly shake the upper part of the body. After hours they have reached a religious state of trance and are ready to start with the ultimate proof of devotion. With centuries-old skewers they pierce their bodies.

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The Bone House in Hallstatt

The Austrian village of Hallstatt is nestled between a steep hillside and a large lake, meaning that the place to bury the dead is limited. For centuries, the graves of the deceased were emptied after ten or twenty years to make room for new graves. The skulls and bones were removed, cleanded and bleached before they were decorated with colored ornaments and flowers. The deceased’s date of birth and death were written on their skulls. Today more than 600 colored skulls (and several hundred non-colored ones) rest along with thousands of bones in Hallstatt’s small bone house. Although bone houses are common in the Alps this is the only known one where skulls are ornamented. In 1995 the last skull from a woman who died in 1983 was laid to rest in the bone house. The inhabitants of Hallstatt still have the right to arrange that their last remains are stored in the bone house if they include such a wish in their last request. The tradition of decorating the skulls with ornaments has not been done since the 1970s.

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The Whirling Dervishes

The Mevlevi order, a mystical Sufi fraternity, was founded after the death of the famous Persian poet and dervish Rumi in 1273 in Konya, Turkey by his followers. The Mevlevi believe in performing their dhikr – the devotional act in which short phrases or prayers are repeatedly recited silently with the mind or aloud – in the form of a “dance” known as the Sama. It involves the whirling around the dervish’s axis by spinning the left foot. The dervishes wear a white gown (symbol of death), a wide black cloak (symbol of the grave) and a tall brown hat (symbol of the tombstone).

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“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” – Rumi

 The Mevlevi order was outlawed in Turkey in 1925. In 1953 the Mevlevi were given partial rights to perform their dhikr in public.

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 “What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi

The order is still active in Turkey, both in Konya and Istanbul, and is currently led by the 20th great-grandson of Rumî, Faruk Hemdem Çelebi.

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi

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“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” – Rumi

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“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” – Rumi

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“Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.” – Rumi

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“Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.” – Rumi

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“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” – Rumi

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Dambulla Cave Temple complex in Sri Lanka dates back to the first century B.C. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock. There are paintings and statues related to Siddhārtha Gautama and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses inlcuding Vishnu and Ganesha.

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