Photographers' Blog

Somalia’s gradual healing

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

After 22 years, Somalia clearly shows signs of recuperating from the deep wounds of civil-war and insurgency.

The emergence of a recognized Somali government has positively changed life; particularly in the city which was mostly an Islamist stronghold two years ago. Somalis in the diaspora have returned for the first time and run various kinds of businesses: contemporary hotels, restaurants and shops. The arrival of Turkish companies that busily repair the ruined roads and mass construction of apartments teaches one of the rebirth of Somalia.

The court hearings and traffic police who whistle and wave police sticks to stop cars prove that there is relative law and order in the city. Although explosions can go off any moment at any place, you can still feel peace as you drive on the well-lit streets of Mogadishu as late as midnight.

Go to the beaches of Mogadishu and glance at the coast guards sailing speed boats in the ocean. They patrol and urge the swimming Somalis and foreigners of all genders not to go out too far to avoid drowning and possible shark attacks. Seeing a man sunbathe on the sand, swim, sip coffee, or eat an ice-cream beside his girlfriend or wife, underlines the adoption of democracy, if that is what it is meant to be.

Two years ago, Islamists would whip a person for sitting or walking on the roads with a member of the opposite sex.

“Are you al-Shabaab or soldiers?”

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

At 11:30 on Sunday morning I was sipping a cup of coffee at the Village restaurant near the palace when I heard a blast followed by gunshots.

I walked out onto the street and could see pickup trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them, rushing toward the Mogadishu court. I started my vehicle and drove speedily in the direction of the court. I arrived moments later at the court building where there was an intense exchange of gunfire.

I could not believe armed fighters had broken into the court, killed the soldiers that guarded it, the lawyers and others. “How did al-Shabaab take over such a well-guarded building in the heart of the town!’ I whispered to myself as I got closer to the building.

One month in Somalia

By Feisal Omar

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

April 5 – I was in my car and was not far from the theater when I heard a big explosion. I stood up and immediately saw a local journalist covered with blood and running. I asked him about the explosion and he told me it was inside the theater. I went towards it but security was tightened after the blast as the government feared other blasts would follow. By then, government soldiers were firing on anyone rushing to the scene.

After some minutes I managed to enter the theater. I saw dead bodies including those of the two biggest sports officials. I was shocked. Rescue workers stood on scattered pieces of human flesh as they collected casualties. I had to take their photos as tears rolled down my cheeks.

I tried to take photos outside the theater but after taking several images soldiers fired on me and ordered me to leave the area. The commander of the theater guards ordered journalists and
rescuers to be fired upon. We ran away at neck breaking speed and the soldiers kept on firing until we disappeared. That was a very shocking day that I will never forget.

The children of Dadaab: Life through the lens

Through my video “The children of Dadaab: Life through the Lens” I wanted to tell the story of the Somali children living in Kenya’s Dadaab. Living in the world’s largest refugee camp, they are the ones bearing the brunt of Africa’s worst famine in sixty years.

I wanted to see if I could tell their story through a different lens, showing their daily lives instead of just glaring down at their ribbed bodies and swollen eyes.

It was a challenging project. As one senior photographer asked, how else can we tell the story without showing images that clearly illustrate the plight of the starving millions? Few photographs cover all aspects of life in the camps.

Flashback to Baidoa, Somalia: 1992

By Yannis Behrakis

It was the beginning of December 1992 and the winter had settled into Athens – the big story was the civil war and the famine in Somalia.

I volunteered to cover the story, as I’m sure many others did, but I was one of the “lucky” ones selected to go. Tom’s distinctive voice on the phone sounded both reassuring and worried. It was my first trip to the region and I remember running frantically to get malaria pills and a Yellow fever vaccine. I had the other vaccines a year earlier before covering a massive earthquake in Iran.

After a long flight via Cairo I found myself in Nairobi, with all my clothes lost somewhere in Africa. The most valuable part of my kit was fortunately still with me: two analogue camera bodies, the usual collection of lenses, a portable darkroom to develop color films, lots of chemicals and the latest in transmission technology, a 35mm film scanner and a T1 PC (the first Reuters photos portable PC) capable of filing a color photo to our London desk in about 22 minutes! This, of course, only if you succeeded in sending all three color separations.

Me and the man with the iPad

By Barry Malone

I never know how to behave when I go to write about hungry people.

I usually bring just a notebook and a pen because it seems somehow more subtle than a recorder. I drain bottled water or hide it before I get out of the car or the plane. In Ethiopia a few years ago I was telling a funny story to some other journalists as our car pulled up near a church where we had been told people were arriving looking for food.

We got out and began walking towards the place, me still telling the tale, shouting my mouth off, struggling to get to the punch line through my laughter and everybody else’s.

Then there was this sound, a low rumbling thing that came to meet us.

I could feel it roll across the ground and up through my boots. I stopped talking, my laughter died, I grabbed the arm of the person beside me: “What is that?” And I realized. It was the sound of children crying. There were enough children crying that — I’ll say it again — I could feel it in my boots. I was shamed by my laughter.

In the face of famine

Thursday, July 21, 2011 was supposed to be like any other night shift here on the pictures desk in Singapore – selecting, editing, and captioning pictures as they came in from around the world. On the menu would be coverage of National Day in Belgium, Eurozone summit, Tour de France, Europa League soccer, golf, and the daily file from Libya, Yemen and the rest of the Middle East, just to name a few.

In my close to four years working as a pictures sub-editor I’ve seen a large variety of what the world, and life has to offer. The rise and fall of politicians and regimes, tsunamis, earthquakes, athletes celebrating and hanging their heads in scandal-ridden shame, conservative cultures covering up in the name of modesty and liberal cultures baring all in the name of expression, fashion, entertainment, or just for the sake of it.

Through my photographer colleagues around the world, I’ve also witnessed a lot of bloodshed, violence and death. From a little girl clutching her dead mother’s body with her intestines spilling onto the road after a bomb explosion, to relatives reacting following gangland executions, heads and genitalia severed. ‘Soldiers’, ‘rebels’, ‘freedom fighters’, ‘terrorists’ – all killing each other in the name of one ideology or another. All of this, as a news organization we’ve presented to you.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW: Two Decades, One Somalia

In the 20 years since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled, Somalia has faced hunger, flooding, fighting, suicide attacks, piracy and insurgency.

Prevailing violent conflict inside Somalia makes it difficult if not impossible for aid agencies to reach people.

AlertNet brings you special coverage of the country which has struggled without a strong central government ever since.

from Our Take on Your Take:

Too busy with pirates

My initial contact with Abdinasir Mohamed Guled was when he submitted a photo to our user-generated content service, called You Witness at the time, now Your View. The caption read "hi reuters" and the location was listed as Mogadishu suqa holaha district. This was enough to peak my attention.

I spoke with Abdinasir, who at the time was busy covering the story of pirates off the Somali coast. Below is his account of his journey from contributor to You Witness to regular stringer for Reuters.

A Somali family arrive at the Elasha Biyaha camp for the internally displaced  after they fled from renewed clashes in Mogadishu, May 13, 2009.  REUTERS/Abdi Guled

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