TRUE FAITH, NO BLOOD – Kosovos Howling Dervishes

Dervishes of Prizren (115 von 138)

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 continous transmission of the spiritual heritage of Allahs Prophet Mohammed. At the climax of this celebration the Sufis will take centuries-old metal skewers and pierce their hips and cheeks.

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 to live very ascetically. Therefore they were often called faqir which means poor in front of Allah.

The collective prayer, 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.

Dervishes of Prizren (87 von 138)For hours the Dervishes have repeated the name of God and shakened their upper part of the body in order to reach a religious state of trance.

Dervishes of Prizren (103 von 138)Sheikh Adrihusein Sheh is ready to pierce this Sufi’s cheek during the dhikr of the Nevruz ritual.

Dervishes of Prizren (97 von 138)Sufi boys with their cheeks pierced.

Dervishes of Prizren (11 von 138)Two old dervishes from the Rifai’i order.

Dervishes of Prizren (14 von 138)Century-old religious tools. On top of the ceremony Dervishes will pierce their cheeks with the metal skewers.

Dervishes of Prizren (126 von 138)This Dervish is piercing both of his cheeks himself after dancing and chanting for hours.

Dervishes of Prizren (33 von 138)Dervishes praying piror to the dhikr.

More images: True Faith, No Blood – Kosovos Howling Dervishes: http://goo.gl/EyvRQc

All images are available for editorial use. If you are interested in buying my images please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For more images please vitis my website www.michaelbiach.com.

SREBRENICA – To give them their names back

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic stormed through the UN peacekeeping enclave into the city of Srebrenica, executing over 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys. Now labeled a genocide, the event is considered the worst episode of European mass murder since World War II, and was the wake-up call for the West to push for the cease-fire that ended the three-year Bosnian conflict. Now, 19 years after the event, pieces of the bodies are still being found in over 300 mass graves, often in several different locations due to the perpetrators’ attempt to cover up the crime. Most of the identification work is done by the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP), established in 1996. The process of contacting family members is a psychologically stressful one from start to finish, as survivors re-live the agony of the loss while deciding to hold a funeral immediately or to wait until all the remains have been found. 6,066 victims have been buried so far during the annual anniversaries of the massacre in Potocari, Bosnia. The number of burials decrease every year, with 175 bodies buried in 2014.

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A Bosnian woman is mourning at the coffin of a close relative killed during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. 

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Dragana Vučetić, Senior Forensic Anthropologist at the International Committee for Missing Persons (ICMP), with human remains from a Srebrenica-massacre related ‘secondary mass grave’. For four years now, ICMP has tried to extract DNA and connect it to blood samples in their databank. Sometimes it is not easy to extract DNA from bones, and often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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

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The 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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Nermin (19) and Samir (23) Selimovic who were killed during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre are laid to ground next to their father’s grave who had been identified a year earlier.

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In the mortuary of Tuzla’s Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) rest several hundred body bags with the remains of victims from the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The dead have been identified through DNA analysis but not yet all of their remains have been found. Sometimes family members of the killed victims decide to wait to hold a burial until all bones have been excavated. The identification process is complicated by the fact that in the days and weeks following the Srebrenica massacre ‘primary mass graves’ were unearthed and the remains buried in many different ‘secondary mass graves’ to cover tracks.

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Human remains from a secondary mass grave. Forensic anthropologists from Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) have tried to extract DNA from the bones and connect it to blood samples in ICMP’s databank. Until now they didn’t find a match. Sometimes it is not easy to extract enough intact DNA from bones, and often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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Relatives of victims of the 1995 genocide are leaving from the commemoration by bus.

More images: Srebrenica – To give them their names back: http://goo.gl/eHtejV

All images are available for editorial use. If you are interested in buying my images please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For more images please vitis my website www.michaelbiach.com.

PORTRAITS OF STRENGTH – International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, I want to post a few portraits of women I have met during my recent projects:

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Adila Bijelic (62) and her family have been seriously affected by Bosnia’s landmine situation in multiple tragedies. Her husband Fehim got killed by a landmine in 1996. In another incident in late 2012 her son Ibrahim was badly injured while her 6-year-old grandson Tarik was fatally wounded and died in the arms of his father.

The world has forgotten us: http://goo.gl/ohSJxP

NGO Landmine Survivors Initiative: http://www.ipm-lsi.org/

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Daw San, lives in the remote mountains of Burma’s Chin-State. Chin women used to follow the thousand year old tradition of tattooing their faces. The tradition has official been banned by the government in the 1960s. “Today the girls, at least in Mindat, see the fading custom as an unattractive relic of the past and they are aware of outside beauty standards,” says Daw San with a cautious smile. Decades ago it would have been out of question for a man to marry an un-tattooed girl. “When I was a little girl”, she says, “it would have been impossible not get tattooed. Every woman was proud of her tattoo.”

Stolen Beauty: http://goo.gl/vqlgEz

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An elderly half-blind woman living in a makeshift home next to railway tracks in Bangladesh’s vibrant capital Dhaka. 

Life Along Railway Tracks: http://goo.gl/uPYs93

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A woman from Jaffna, Sri Lanka is selling fresh fish at a small market. 

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Dragana Vučetić, Senior Forensic Anthropologist at the International Comitee for Missing Persons (ICMP), with human remains from a Srebrenica-massacre related ‘secondary mass grave’. For four years now ICMP has tried to extract DNA and connect it to blood samples in their databank. Until now they didn’t find a match. Sometimes it is not easy to extract DNA from bones, often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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

Srebrenica – To give them their names back: http://goo.gl/eHtejV

 

All images are available for editorial use. If you are interested in buying my images please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For more images please vitis my website www.michaelbiach.com.

LUNIK IX EXHIBITION IN BELGIUM

I will have an exhibition of my photographs of the life in Lunik IX, a Roma slum in East Slovakia, in a group exhibition during  ‘Photographie et Architecture Triennale #5′ in Brussels, Belgium from March 19th 2015 until June 10th 2015. Location: “Espace Architecture”,19 bis Place Flagey, 1050 Bruxelles. Have a look inside if you are in town.

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The apartment complex of Lunik IX, Kosice, Slovakia. Some of the buildings have had to be demolished in the meantime.

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Invitation of the Exhibtion in Brussels, Belgium.

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Karmena is a teenage Romni living in Lunik IX. Devastated and frustrated she is standing in a recently abandoned flat in Lunik IX. More and more apartments become uninhabitable.

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Roma kids play in the back of one of Lunik IX’s apartment buildings next to a several meter thick layer of garbage.

Lunik IX is an apartment complex in the southwestern suburbs of Kosice, Slovakia. Originally build as home for middle-class families with a capacity of 2,500 people, the Slovakian government started to resettle thousands of Slovakian people affiliated to the Roma minority in the 1990s. Today Lunik IX is home to an estimated number of 6,000 to 8,000 Roma making it the largest Roma community in Slovakia.

Over the years Lunik IX evolved into an urban slum. The unemployment rate is nearly 100%, inhabitants aren’t able to pay their water, gas or electricity bills. The waste disposal isn’t working as inhabitants constantly throw their trash right out of the window.

Several buildings are in an unacceptable condition and at risk to collapse.

The children of Lunik IX are the first who suffer from these horrible conditions.

Full length photo essay: http://goo.gl/Yx5NGS

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Karmena, a teenage Roma girl is sitting on a balcony of one of Lunik IX’s abandoned flats. The garbage thrown out of the window has already reached the first floor. 

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Tap water is only available during a couple of hours per day. 

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Roma kids burning trash as a pastime activity in Lunik IX.

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Roma girl sitting on the stairs of one of Lunik IX’s apartment buildings.

All images are available for editorial use. If you are interested in buying my images please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For more images please vitis my website www.michaelbiach.com.