In the tribal areas where the Taliban and Al-Qaida took refuge after 9/11, local Pashtun communities found themselves at the forefront of the terrorist threat, forgotten in the complex diplomatic game played out between Pakistan and the United States. Exasperated by the atrocities of which they were victim, tribes in this area bordering Afghanistan had no other choice than to defend themselves against the reign of terror.
To guarantee their protection, often with their own weapons and supplies, tribal leaders returned to Lashkar tradition of yesteryear, forming militia to meet a specific aim: pursue a criminal, settle a family dispute, reject a law.
Massimo Berruti – Lashkars
“I wanted to use my images, however tragic they may sometimes be, to reveal how these people suffer in their daily lives from the terrorism perpetrated by the Taliban, but in particular I wanted to show how they resist with their minimal resources and continue to live despite everything. I am not sure that I have completely achieved this aim with my photos, as terrorism is a complicated, often impalpable, affair that involves wide-ranging interests, sometimes from outside the country where it occurs. It was hard for me to show the feeling of degradation that I witnessed during my trip. Things seem to be deteriorating but the authorities think only of using armed force to curb the Taliban threat, which in my opinion is counterproductive.
Strangely enough, I encountered very few problems working as a photographer in Pakistan. In fact, it turned out to be easier for me to work in Pakistan than in Italy. The people are not violent; Pakistan in general is not a violent country. Of course, the situation for locals is very hard; they may curse those who do them so much harm, question their reasons.
Sometimes the Taliban beat women in public even though this goes completely against Pashtun culture. Yet there is no anger against the US army or even the Taliban terrorists. Rather, people are waiting for everything to blow over, for things to improve. Paradoxically, the only time I really felt threatened was not because of the Taliban but the Pakistani army. In the Swat Valley, a young solider grabbed my camera for no reason and pointed his gun at me. I was pretty scared that day.”
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- Alain Genestar jury chairman, director of Polka Magazine and Polka Galerie
- Christian Caujolle journalist, curator and founder of VU agency and gallery
- Clément Chéroux curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou
- Olivier Laban-Mattei independent photojournalist
- Susan Meiselas photographer, Magnum agency
- Kathy Ryan director of photography at the New York Times Magazine
- Olivier Weber author, diplomat and ambassador at large for human rights
- Kai Wiedenhöfer German photographer, 2009 Carmignac Gestion prizewinner