Burnt under the sun

October 29, 2012

By Damir Sagolj


The bottom picture is of a dead man killed by who-knows-who and left alone in the desert. I shot this image almost ten years ago from atop a U.S. Marines tank speeding towards Baghdad.

It immediately got lost, the photo itself, amongst others illustrating what would be celebrated as the liberation of a country from a tyrant. Other images of fighting and those of U.S. soldiers doing this and that played well in the papers. Somewhere near Nassiriya, this man was left forgotten to rot under the desert sun — and on our hard drives.

Not long after, I realized that was probably my best shot from the short invasion from Kuwait to Baghdad. This was a simple but powerful picture of an unknown man killed by whomever and left alone among tank trails, surrounded by nothing but dust and the noise of war. Everyone was too busy with their personal wars at the moment, I suppose. People had to survive, to run away, while others had to win battles and justify their leader’s decisions. I had to take more pictures that seemed more important for the world of news that is always hungry for answers to those questions.

Yesterday I edited a strong set of pictures shot by a young, talented and brave Reuters photographer in Myanmar named Soe Zeya Tun. He covered another round of the terrible story of ethnic clashes between Muslim Rohingya people and the local Buddhist Rakhine population.

The first picture he sent that I picked up was something that made me look into my archive for that Iraqi man. It was Soe Zeya’s powerful picture of a single body (a woman? a Muslim?) floating in the sea not far from the village that was burnt in the latest escalation of bloody violence. People were escaping the violence in their rickety boats. This one didn’t make it.

Killed by who knows who, this unknown woman was left under the tropical sun in the sea somewhere near Pauktaw.

I’m sure, once the dust from breaking news settles down, this picture which says it all will remain as a perfect visual document of how brutal the conflict was and how fragile the life of people caught in it actually is.

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