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epa Photo Essays 2021
Further away from the more known fires at the touristic resorts of Marmaris and Bodrum, Turkey’s Antalya Manavgat district witnessed the country’s biggest fire disaster. It all started on 28 July 2021 and took ten days to be brought under control but only after it burned some 60,000 hectares of forest, 59 villages or neighborhoods, and hundreds of houses. Seven people were killed and more than a hundred others were injured. Over 30,000 farm animals perished in the process as well.
The crossings along the mountainous 540 kilometer-border between Turkey and Iran are protected by a concrete wall, a barbed-wire-topped barrier that stretches for 140 kilometers but which does little to stop thousands of mostly young people fleeing from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran every year to leave conflict, violence, and despair behind in search for a better life. With no prospects of a decent future at home, they are forced to leap into the unknown and gamble on their quest for a dream that for many turns out to be a nightmare. Irregular migrants in some cases not recognized refugees risk their lives in the hopes of finding a job in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Ankara, Afyon, İzmir, Balikesir, and eventually mainland Europe. According to the Turkish Ministry of Interior General Directorate of Migration Management, some 53,176 migrants have been stopped so far this year until 16 June. The figure is half of last year and a major drop from the 454,662 migrants stopped in 2019.
Just a few kilometers away from the border with Albania and after a two hour trip from Skopje, the Rajchica Monastery emerges in a bucolic spot as one of the hidden treasures of North Macedonia, a religious place devoted to prayer and meditation but also to the craft of hand-making of one of the most significant symbols in Orthodox Christian religion: Mitres. “Our crowns”, says the sister Efimija when referring to these mitres worn by bishops and patriarchs alike in Orthodox churches, from Bulgaria to Serbia or Greece. This ceremonial headdress, a piece of the traditional attire of bishops in Christianity are worn in the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and some Lutheran churches, and also by bishops and clergies in the Eastern Catholic and Oriental Orthodox churches.
Every year, millions of Chinese tourists flock to museums and sites that pay tribute to the country’s Communist Party (CCP) and its ‘glorious’ revolutionary past. Dressing up in Red Army uniforms topped with caps bearing the communist hammer and sickle and singing revolutionary songs, these patriotic tourists spend millions of yuan on the political pilgrimages, which are central to what is known in China as ‘Red Tourism’. The tours take visitors to historically significant sites for the CCP, battlefields, and residences of important former communist leaders. This year, with the Party marking its 100th anniversary, the stream of visitors is expected to reach its zenith. One of the best-known destinations is Jinggangshan, a city that is famed as a center of ‘Red Culture’ for its many important revolutionary sites, including where Chairman Mao Zedong and other Communist Party leaders created the first rural base for the revolution in 1927.
For refugees and asylum seekers, starting a new life in the United Kingdom presents a host of tough challenges, from learning the language to finding common ground with the locals. But a grassroots soccer team in southern England has stepped in to help the newcomers to integrate and make friends in their new home. "Borders divide us but there are no borders in football — we are the United Nations!", Tomson Chalke, founder and chairman of Sanctuary Strikers Football Club, tells epa-efe. The club, founded in 2017 in Reading, was created to bring together refugees and non-refugees to play soccer in a spirit of unity, which he says is the essence of the world’s most popular sport. "Football is the beautiful game — it unites people and promotes community cohesion and integration," Chalke says.
In Nagorno Karabakh, life is returning to normal after the 44-day war between September and November last year that left more than 5,000 killed and thousands of displaced people and refugees. But some things are still far from what they used to be in the self-declared Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), a territory mostly home to ethnic Armenians that the Soviets allocated to Azerbaijan in 1921 and is recognized as Azerbaijani by the international community. Soldiers stranded in abandoned military positions, schools housing orphans and the children of refugees, villagers in need of aid, and the evident scars of a war that has brought 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to monitor the ceasefire agreed in the middle of the night on November 10 are now part of the landscape in this troubled region. In Karabakh political tensions are on the rise. Some want answers, and there are voices demanding that those responsible for the bloodshed be punished and a complete change of the failing leadership. Despite the resentment, people are mostly frightened of a resumption of the conflict.
Istanbul has been a site of human settlement for around 3,000 years and nowadays it is a cradle of cultural and historical heritage points that plot the city's evolution over time. Byzantine churches, walls, and cisterns rub shoulders with Ottoman mosques, fountains, and tombs in the Turkish city that straddles Europe and Asia. Some of the historic features of Istanbul have been neglected in recent years while others have fallen into ruin. It is a trend that specialists from Istanbul's cultural heritage department (IBB Miras) strive to buck. IBB Miras brings together experts in restoration, architecture, engineering, history, and visual arts, who want to breathe some life back into some of the city’s dilapidated gems.