America's war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, but the tragedy that it has become is far from over. After more than a decade of fighting, it appears very likely that America will leave Afghanistan in a perilously unstable condition. The people who remain will find themselves caught between a brutal and far-from-defeated insurgency, a deeply corrupt government, armed ethnic factions, criminal networks, terrorists, and the clandestine meddling of foreign intelligence services. Afghanistan's impoverished economy will continue to regress after foreign assistance declines, and there will be fewer NGOs to help the indigent, the displaced, the wounded, and the orphaned.
The Western media's interest in Afghanistan will almost certainly diminish along with the Western troops. It's already happening. Last year, the war in Afghanistan accounted for roughly two percent of the news content published in the United States. This was the same year that 3,021 Afghan civilians (a record for the war) and 566 coalition members (the second highest toll since 2001) were killed.
Our last adventure in Afghanistan—supporting anti-Soviet mujaheddin in the 1980s, then abandoning them after the country descended into chaos—gave rise to the Taliban, demonstrating that we ignore this country at our peril.
Razistan.org aims to give the war in Afghanistan the attention it demands. Our core project is a website of unique photo essays and short video documentaries that bring into vivid relief not only the war and its participants but also the country and its people. Contributors include both award-winning Kabul-based photojournalists from around the world and local Afghan photographers and videographers.
Too often in a war zone, foreign correspondents and photographers are expected to cover "news," and too seldom do they get the chance to examine the less-dramatic but equally critical dimensions of the conflict. Razistan will afford photojournalists and videographers the time and artistic freedom to pursue underreported stories far more trenchantly, creatively, and sometimes disturbingly than mainstream media outlets generally permit.
Razistan's contributors, both foreign and local, live in Afghanistan full time. Most of those from abroad came alone, without the support and protection of an office or a bureau; some have been there for many years. Among the first subjects that Razistan will cover are Taliban I.E.D. makers in the Jawzjan desert, Helmand Province's Afghan National Army, civilian combat victims in Kandahar's Mirwais Hospital, Kabul's weekly dog fights, the Afghan competitive-body-building subculture, village militias in Wardak Province, and female village elders who have assumed male identities in the mountains of Khost.
The best work of many international journalists living in Afghanistan has yet to enjoy a broad Western audience. Likewise, there is a wealth of brave and talented Afghan photographers and writers working throughout the country in relative obscurity. In the past, Afghan journalists, employed as stringers or fixers, desired anonymity for reasons of safety. But that paradigm is changing. Now many Afghans working in the field crave the legitimacy they deserve. They want to be recognized as journalists in their own right, covering their own country through their own eyes, rather than serving as the invisible facilitators of foreign correspondents.
Razistan will work to bring these journalists greater exposure. In addition to exhibiting Afghan work, we will conduct workshops and seminars that help them refine their skills and generate more interest in, and awareness of, the nascent community of aspiring and professional local journalists taking significant risks every day in Afghanistan.
Tax-deductible contributions to Razistan will go directly towards funding in-depth photo essays and videos concentrating on important aspects of the conflict and the country that have been so far neglected or ignored. They will also help empower Afghans to continue covering the fallout of a conflict that will do doubt effect them and their families for some time to come.
Razistan's contributors include Lorenzo Tugnoli, John Wendle, Javier Manzano, Mikhail Galustov, Sandra Calligaro, Terese Cristiansson, Joel Van Houdt, Pieter Ten Hoopen, Jake Simkin, John Saruk, and Fardin Waezi.
The war isn't over. Help us tell the story.
- (60 days)