Ramadan started in Asia on Sunday and Indonesia-based photographer Ahmed Yusef produced this beautiful image to mark the start of the most important period in the Muslim calendar. The viewer focuses on the young woman’s eyes as the red scarf draws you to her through a sea of swirling white created by a slow exposure. Also in Indonesia, Dwi Oblo’s picture draws you into the picture through light and smoke to evoke a real feeling of people humbling themselves as they pay respects to their dead relatives as they also prepare for Ramadan.
Muslim woman attend mass prayer session “Tarawih”, which marks the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Al Markaz Al Islami mosque in Makassar, South Sulawesi July 31, 2011. Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and conducting sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. REUTERS/Ahmad Yusuf
Japan continues to dominate the file from Asia with new photograhers rotating in to cover the twists and turns of this complex and tragic story. In a country were the nation rarely buries its dead, the site of mass graves is quite a shocking scene to behold. Holes the length of football pitches are dug in the ground with mechanical digggers and divided into individual plots by the military and are then filled with the coffins of the victims of the tsunami. Family members come to weep and pray over the graves. Some are namless and marked only with DNA details, others bear the names of the victims. There is not enough power or fuel to cremate the thousands of bodies that are being recovered from the disaster zone.
Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force carry a coffin of a victim of the earthquake and tsunami to be buried at a temporary mass grave site in Higashi-Matsushima, in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
As India heads towards their Republic Day celebrations, Prime Minister Singh makes minor adjustments to his cabinet while outside on the streets people demonstrate over food and fuel price inflation and corruption. Adnan Abidi produces a great picture as a middle-aged demonstrator gets to feel the full force of a police water canon. In stark contrast, B Mathur gets a glimpse of the dress rehearsal of the full military parade planned to celebrate India’s independence where the security forces are deployed in a somewhat different manner. Danish Siddiqui added to the file this week with a well seen picture to illustrate a government spending initiative with a man pulling a pipe across a building site, the shadow creating an eye like image that almost seems to wink at the viewer.
Police use water canons to disperse supporters of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during a protest in New Delhi January 18, 2011. Thousands of the supporters on Tuesday in New Delhi held a protest against a recent hike in petrol prices and high inflation. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A salute to all those who managed to get pictures, text and video out of Myanmar (Burma) of the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a truly historic moment. No foreign journalists were given visas to cover the election or Suu Kyi’s release and there’s no Internet. Respect to you all.
Aung San Suu Kyi (C) waves to supporters gathered to hear her speech outside the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party in Yangon November 14, 2010. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A continual struggle with writing this blog is trying to keep it picture led and not wander off into the top stories from the week that may not have produced the best pictures. This week in Asia we have seen the arrival of U.S President Obama in India, U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton doing the rounds, the first election in Myanmar for 20 years (no prizes as to who will win though) not one, but two Qantas jets getting into engine difficulty, the continuing tensions between Japan and China, the failed bid by BHP Billiton to take over of Potash, currency woes as we prepare for G20 in Seoul later this week and let’s not forget Afghanistan and bombs in Pakistan. So where to start? Mick Tsikas produced my favourite picture of the week, a fan at the Melbourne Cup; one can only admire the oral control it takes to shout in celebration while holding firmly onto a lit cigarette. I thought this was a skill that died out with the passing of Humphrey Bogart.
A race-goer cheers as jockey Gerald Mosse of France rides Americain to victory in the Melbourne Cup at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas
In terms of the Ring of Fire, Indonesia had just been too quiet. Warnings that Mount Merapi, which towers above the outskirts of Yogyakarta city on Java island, was about to erupt, were heeded by some and ignored by many. On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that hit the remote western Mentawai islands killing at least 343. A day later, Mount Merapi erupted, killing at least 34. It took almost three days for Jakarta based photographer Crack Palinggi to reach the scene of the devastation caused by the tsunami. Beawiharta was quicker to scene of the volcano; needless to say it’s always worth standing well back when people are evacuating from an erupting volcano. Bea’s picture screams panic, heat and noise of those fleeing as hot ash falls to earth, the drama amplified by the flash blur technique used. It is in complete contrast to the picture taken a day later of sombre near silence as rescue workers crunch through the muffled ashen landscape like newly fallen snow.
A woman covers her baby as she runs from ash falling from an erupting volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, near Indonesia’s ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 26, 2010. Mount Merapi erupted on Tuesday, prompting terrified villagers to flee and join the thousands already evacuated from its slopes, witnesses said. REUTERS/Beawiharta
Flooding and mudslides have again dominated the week’s coverage in Asia. Reports that one fifth of Pakistan is now under water and over 20 million have been affected by the rising waters. In the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu over a 1000 people lost their lives as a mudslide swept through the town of Zhouqu. It is easy to become visually tired looking at images of people wading waist deep in flood water or seeing another image of a relative weeping for a loved one. In the pictures below even the most jaded eyes and souls must feel the passion of the pictures as photographers tell the story and bring home the desperation of their subject’s plight.
Adrees Latif, chief photographer Pakistan, captures a moment that if it wasn’t so sad would almost be funny. People, whose lives have been shattered by flooding, loss of their homes, hunger and the risk of disease suffer the final humiliation as a relief truck sweeps by driving water over their heads, the driver oblivious of the scene. In another picture in a camp for the displaced Karachi based photographer Akhtar Soomro photographs a boy sitting in isolation who hurriedly eats, his eyes glaring out of the image as he keeps guard in case someone, imagined or real, tries to steal his food.
Rarely do so many big stories of global interest happen at the same time from one region but last week in Asia its been incredible.
Soldiers and aid workers struggled to reach at least a million people cut off by landslides that have complicated relief efforts after the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years. Poor weather has grounded relief helicopters and more rain was expected to compound the misery of more than 13 million people . The floods have killed more than 1,600 people.
One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to residents of a housing block in Jakarta. The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.
Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day. REUTERS/Beawiharta
It’s a big day in Jakarta. The parliamentary committee that has been investigating a bank bailout for months is due to present its findings, so that members of parliament can decide the fate of two of Indonesia’s top reformers, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boediono regarding their decision to bailout small lender Bank Century. So you decide to protest at the gates of Parliament. You need to be prepared, you need to be equipped. You will face riot police, baton charges, razor wire, water canon and thrown bricks and bottles and tear gas. What will you decide to take? Packed into your bag will be a banner (with additional pole that acts as a lance), a helmet to protect your head from projectiles, of course political motivation…………and don’t forget your toothbrush.
A student pretends to brush his teeth as police use water cannons to disperse protesters outside the parliament building in Jakarta March 2, 2010, where the parliamentary inquiry committee’s recommendations over the Bank Century rescue is being held. A parliamentary probe failed on Tuesday to resolve bitter divisions over the fate of Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boedino, two key pro-market lawmakers in Indonesia’s cabinet, signalling conflict over economic reform would continue. REUTERS/Beawiharta