iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism, war

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (165): Shell Shock

100 years ago today, Gavrilo Princip kills Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chotek in Sarajevo. A few weeks later, WWI started. For some reason, one thing in particular comes to mind when I remember my history lessons: shell shock.

Shell shocked soldier, 1916

Shell shocked soldier, 1916

Shell shock was the reaction of some soldiers in World War I to the trauma of battle and to the intensity of the bombardments. The illness covered a wide variety of symptoms: helplessness appearing variously as panic or flight, an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk, amnesia, hysterical paralysis, contractures, mutism. A dazed thousand-yard stare is also typical.

Shell shock would later be called “war neurosis“. It’s similar to but not the same thing as PTSD. Like in the case of PTSD, mental stress leads to dramatic physical difficulties.

Here are two interesting and short documentaries:

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

An Attempt to Justify the Publication of Images of People Suffering Rights Violations

Photographers holding their iconic images

Photographers holding their iconic images

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Most of the time, I write about human rights in highly abstract terms, and I feel that this doesn’t quite do justice to the theme. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is, like most clichés, partially true. Hence my decision to publish photographs of human rights violations. I even have a blog series entirely dedicated to iconic or soon to be iconic images of human rights violations. 

Now and then, this decision has led to complaints from readers. The images that I publish, although invariably showing human rights violations, do not necessarily induce horror or disgust, but some of them do given the nature of the topic. It’s understandably unpleasant when shocking images are hoisted upon readers without warning. I do try to hide the most horrific ones behind a warning, as in this case for example. But in general I just show the images as they are. 

Why do I do this? Certainly not because I like to shock. My only reason for posting images of rights violations is our need to know what it means to have our rights violated. A lot of this meaning is captured in images rather than words. We often only really know what it means to have our rights violated when we know what it looks like to have our rights violated. This isn’t just because of mnemonic reasons – although it’s obviously true that an image will produce better retention, and that better retention will increase long term consciousness. (One can reasonably hope that long term consciousness of an issue promotes activism). Images have a vividness and clarity that is often absent from words – or at least from my words. Readers’ feelings of disgust or horror, although regrettable, are a necessary corollary of the process of learning about human rights. 

Apart from reader sensitivities, there are other arguments against the publication of images of people having their rights violated. For example, people may be harmed by the knowledge that the suffering of their friends or family members is displayed in public. In some cases, they may even learn about this suffering through the publication of photographs, which is of course an even greater form of harm. And what about the dignity and privacy of those suffering? 

Those points are moot in the case of most photographs that I publish. Those are often photographs that have been published before, and I tend not to publish very recent ones. Hence I’m not telling relatives about what happened to their loved ones; and privacy is obviously not a concern to victims and relatives who are long since death. When I do publish photos of recent events, I try to blur the victims’ faces (see this example).

I have to say that I’m not absolutely convinced I’m doing the right thing here. Posts like this one make me doubt. So I’m open to persuasion, but as it stands I’ll keep my policy in place.

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iconic images of human rights violations

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (164): The “June 4th Incident”

The “June 4th Incident“, known to everyone outside of the Chinese government as the Tiananmen Massacre, has it’s 25th anniversary today. Here’s an image taken one day after, on June 5th, 1989:

Tienanmen Square Massacre

A young couple waits beneath Jianguomenwai Bridge on the fringe of Beijing’s diplomatic area, as PLA tanks roll above them. Photo by Liu Heung Shing, 1989

This one is taken on the day itself:

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Photo by Durand-Langevin

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More here. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (161): War Crimes in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Civil War began in July 1983. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers) fought an insurgency against the government to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, bringing the civil war to an end. An estimated 100,000 people were killed. Both sides, but especially the Sri Lankan government during the final phase of and just after the war, committed horrible crimes.

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Marked human skulls are seen at a construction site in the former war zone in Mannar, about 327 km (203 miles) from the capital Colombo, January 16, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/DINUKA LIYANAWATTE

This appears to be the brutalized corpse of a Tamil fighter:

(source)

More on Sri LankaMore iconic photos.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (160): Protest in Brazil

Police fire rubber bullets at a protester during clashes in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Demonstrations in Brazil began in response to plans to increase fares for the public transportation system but have broadened into wider protests over economic and social issues. Since then, both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to roll back prices on bus and metro tickets.

Police fire rubber bullets at a protester during clashes in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Demonstrations in Brazil began in response to plans to increase fares for the public transportation system but have broadened into wider protests over economic and social issues. Since then, both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to roll back prices on bus and metro tickets.

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More on Brazil and on protestMore iconic photos.

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capital punishment, iconic images of human rights violations, law, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (158): The Last Public Execution in France

Eugen Weidmann (1908-1939) was the last person to be publicly executed in France in June 1939. He was guilty of multiple murders. Executions by guillotine in France continued in private until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi was the last person to be executed.

Weidmann’s execution was photographed and even filmed. Here are some of the photographs:

24 Jun 1939, Versailles, France. Shirt pulled down over his shoulders to prevent interference with the guillotine's knife, Eugene Weidmann is being led into the courtyard of Saint Pierre Prison in Versailles to his execution on the guillotine. The basket which was to receive his dead body is shown (partially) at left.

24 Jun 1939, Versailles, France. Shirt pulled down over his shoulders to prevent interference with the guillotine’s knife, Eugene Weidmann is being led into the courtyard of Saint Pierre Prison in Versailles to his execution on the guillotine. The basket which was to receive his dead body is shown (partially) at left.

Here he is being put on the table and held by his feet

Here he is being put on the table and held by his feet

Eugen Weidmann execution

Here’s the film (careful: it’s upsetting):

This is the man in better times:

weidmann

For comparison: the U.S. performed it’s last public execution three years earlier, in 1936, and is of course still killing criminals in this day and age.

More on capital punishment. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (157): Palestinian Punishment for Collaborators

Palestinian gunmen ride motorcycles as they drag the body of a man, who was suspected of working for Israel, in Gaza City November 20, 2012. Palestinian gunmen shot dead six alleged collaborators in the Gaza Strip who "were caught red-handed", according to a security source quoted by the Hamas Aqsa radio on Tuesday. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinian gunmen ride motorcycles as they drag the body of a man, who was suspected of working for Israel, in Gaza City November 20, 2012. Palestinian gunmen shot dead six alleged collaborators in the Gaza Strip who “were caught red-handed”, according to a security source quoted by the Hamas Aqsa radio. Photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

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More on Israel and Palestine. More iconic images.

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capital punishment, iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (156): Execution in Tehran

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A young man being executed in Tehran a few nights ago. Some reports say that the witnesses in the first image were the family of the person executed, others say that it’s the family of his victims. Makes a big difference in interpretation of the image, obviously. Maybe they’re both there.

More on capital punishment. More on Iran. More iconic photos.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (155): Food Aid in Yarmouk, Damascus

Residents wait to receive food aid distributed at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on January 31, 2014

Residents wait to receive food aid distributed at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on January 31, 2014

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Yarmouk, a Palestinian neighborhood in Damascus, has been under siege by the Syrian army since July 2013.

At least 55 people have died from hunger and the majority of children are suffering from malnutrition, according to a Palestinian activist living in Yarmouk.

About 20,000 people are currently besieged in Yarmouk. The regime of Bashar al-Assad says “terrorists” are holding people hostage. Beyond the tactical starvation, Syrian jets have also been bombing the area.

This picture, published by United Nations Relief Workers Agency, shows a seemingly endless line of people waiting for food aid.

More on Syria. More iconic photos.

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iconic images of human rights violations

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (153): Women in Chicago Being Arrested For Wearing Bathing Suits

Women in Chicago being arrested for wearing one piece bathing suits, without covering their legs 1922

Women in Chicago being arrested for wearing one piece bathing suits, without covering their legs 1922

Here’s a similar image from somewhere else (looks like DC):

The swimsuit police checking the length of a suit, 1922

The swimsuit police checking the length of a suit, 1922

There’s obviously no human right to wear a bikini, but getting arrested for wearing one is a rights violation. And all this is indicative of society’s disregard for gender equality. The famous story of Annette Kellerman is relevant here. Kellerman was famous for advocating the right of women to wear a one-piece bathing suit, which was controversial at the time. According to an Australian magazine, “In the early 1900s, women were expected to wear cumbersome dress and pantaloon combinations when swimming. In 1907, at the height of her popularity, Kellerman was arrested on Revere Beach, Massachusetts, for indecency – she was wearing one of her fitted one-piece costumes.” Here she is:

Annette Kellerman

Unsurprisingly, women have been the main targets of the decency police. And yet, here’s an example of a man at a beach in the Netherlands being fined for not wearing decent clothes (in 1931):

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More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (151): Lunch Counter Segregation

Franklin Eugene McCain died two days ago. McCain and three others, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” are credited with initiating the sit-in movement when they sat down at the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro on February 1, 1960 and requested service.

Franklin McCain, part of Greensboro Four who staged sit-ins at all-white lunch counter

Franklin McCain, part of Greensboro Four who staged sit-ins at all-white lunch counter

Marchers protest denial of service at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Roanoke, 1960

Marchers protest denial of service at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Roanoke, 1960

Read the whole story here. More on segregation. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (149): Protester Getting His Glasses Pulverized by Police Officer

police brutality

Despite the iconic nature of this image I couldn’t find any information about it. Lots of websites have posted it, but never with any useful comments. I don’t know where it’s taken. Was it a protest that turned violent? Who was protesting what? Is it police brutality or a justified hit? If it’s official misconduct then it’s certainly a human rights violation. The right to protest is a protected form of free speech. Or maybe it wasn’t a protest at all. (In which case we could still be looking at a rights violation).

Your help is welcome. Please use the comment section if you know something about the image.

More iconic photos.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (148): The Beating of L. Alex Wilson

The Beating of L. Alex Wilson

Little Rock: Reporter L. Alex Wilson being attacked by a mob, September 23, 1957

The Beating of L. Alex Wilson 2

This happened

three weeks after Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus abruptly derailed school desegregation in September 1957. Confident that the Negroes would be kept out by the cordon of Arkansas National Guardsmen surrounding the school, crowds of angry whites—many having no connection to the school or to Little Rock—arrived every morning to demonstrate their disapproval of integration. They watched white students enter the school and kept a watchful eye to make sure black students, though backed by a federal court order allowing them in, didn’t try to sneak in. White reporters and cameramen faced relentless heckling, physical taunts and spittle. Black reporters faced worse. The story had drawn many of the most experienced journalists in the black press, reporters who had braved the back roads of the South and pioneered civil rights coverage long before it caught on with the mainstream white press. But as they tried to penetrate the scene around the high school, they met scorn and stonewalling as National Guardsmen quickly moved them off the premises and away from the story.

On the warm Monday morning of Sept. 23, the integration stalemate broke and the story changed. The National Guard, following a federal court edict, had withdrawn. The white crowds stayed, however, leaving the school’s grounds and perimeter beyond the control of authorities. Black students on their way to the school in a station wagon were heading into an unpredictable mob scene.

At the same time, in a separate car, intent on witnessing and covering the moment firsthand, were four seasoned black newsmen. Their leader was the tall, dark-skinned and serious L. Alex Wilson, the editor and general manager of the Tri-State Defender of Memphis, Tennessee—the newspaper that was the southern outpost of the Chicago Defender, one of the foremost black newspapers in the United States. (Continue reading).

More on segregation and on Little Rock. More iconic photos.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (147): Poverty in the UK Between the Wars

Bill Brandt, Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal, 1937

Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal, 1937, photo by Bill Brandt

A family struggling in the slums of South Wales in the 1930s

A family struggling in the slums of South Wales in the 1930s

Unemployed man and his family in Brighton in 1921

Unemployed man and his family in Brighton in 1921

More on poverty in the UK. More on the right not to suffer poverty. More iconic images.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (144): Kosovo

Family and neighbors mourn the death of Elshani Nashim (27), killed during a protest against the Yugoslavian government's decision to abolish the autonomy of Kosovo, 1990, by Georges Merillon

Family and neighbors mourn the death of Elshani Nashim (27), killed during a protest against the Yugoslavian government’s decision to abolish the autonomy of Kosovo, 1990, by Georges Merillon

Albanians fleeing Kosovo, by Tom Stoddart

Albanians fleeing Kosovo, by Tom Stoddart. Transported into Macedonia from Kosovo by bus at night, an Albanian father and son escape their Serb tormentors. In the spring of 1999, Serbs forced 1.5 million Albanians out of Kosovo, destroying what they left behind.

More on refugees, ethnic cleansing and Kosovo. Some data. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (141): Operation Desert Storm and the Highway of Death

A US Military graves detail buries the bodies of dead Iraqi soldiers killed along the "Mile of Death", on the road between Kuwait City and Basra, north of Kuwait City, 1991, by Peter Turnley

A US Military graves detail buries the bodies of dead Iraqi soldiers killed along the “Mile of Death”, on the road between Kuwait City and Basra, north of Kuwait City, 1991, by Peter Turnley

Apocalypse in Kuwait, by Steve McCurry 1991

Apocalypse in Kuwait, by Steve McCurry 1991

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Incinerated body of an Iraqi soldier

Incinerated body of an Iraqi soldier on the “Highway of Death,” a name the press has given to the road from Mutlaa, Kuwait, to Basra, Iraq. U.S. planes immobilized the convoy by disabling vehicles at its front and rear, then bombing and straffing the resulting traffic jam for hours. More than 2,000 vehicles and tens of thousands of charred and dismembered bodies littered the sixty miles of highway – 1991 Kenneth Jarecke

Read the whole story here and here. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (134): Famine in China

Famished Chinese child dying in a gutter, by George Silk 1946

Famished Chinese child dying in a gutter, by George Silk 1946

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famine in china

by George Silk 1946

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These images are not from the more infamous famine that occurred during the Great Leap Forward.

George Silk was a LIFE Magazine staffer, working for them 30 years. He extensively covered many aspects of the second world war, at one point being even captured by the Germans, and then fortunately escaping. He was also the first photographer to document Nagasaki after the atomic bombing. Immediately after the war, he was in China recording the poor social conditions and the lack of resources and its devastating effects on the Chinese populace. (source)

More iconic images of human rights violations. More about famine.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (133): The Bombardment of Phnom-Penh

"The Bombardment of Phnom-Penh," by Christine Engler 1974

“The Bombardment of Phnom-Penh,” by Christine Engler 1974. Survivors sift through rubble after the Khmer Rouge bomb Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Under the Pol Pot Regime, the Khmer Rouge are laying siege to the city, attacking the two million refugees who have gathered there.

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More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (132): Victim of the Khmer Rouge

by Ho Van Tay, 1979, who was led to the camp by the smell of decomposing bodies and discovered decapitated victims still shackled to iron beds. S21 was the notorious Security Prison 21, in the center of Phnom Penh

by Ho Van Tay, 1979, who was led to the camp by the smell of decomposing bodies and discovered decapitated victims still shackled to iron beds. S21 was the notorious Security Prison 21, in the center of Phnom Penh

(source)

More on the Khmer Rouge. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (129): Suicide Bombing in Sri Lanka

This image made from video shows an explosion among Sri Lankan Muslim men during a religious procession, a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed 14 and wounded 35, AP photo 2009

This image made from video shows an explosion among Sri Lankan Muslim men during a religious procession, a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed 14 and wounded 35, AP photo 2009

(source)

More about Sri Lanka and suicide bombing. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (128): Illegal Immigrant

A would-be African immigrant crawls past sunbathers after his arrival on a makeshift boat on the Gran Tarajal beach in Spain's Canary Islands, by Juan Medina 2006

A would-be African immigrant crawls past sunbathers after his arrival on a makeshift boat on the Gran Tarajal beach in Spain’s Canary Islands, by Juan Medina 2006

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This man can be considered lucky. Other attempts are a lot less fortunate. More on illegal immigration and open borders. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (127): Healthcare in Afghanistan

It is believed that 40 days in chains and a restricted diet at the 300-year old Mia Ali Baba shrine near Kabul, Afghanistan can cure the mentally ill and those possessed by djinns, or spirits, by Rahmat Gul 2009

It is believed that 40 days in chains and a restricted diet at the 300-year old Mia Ali Baba shrine near Kabul, Afghanistan can cure the mentally ill and those possessed by djinns, or spirits, by Rahmat Gul 2009

(source)

More on Afghanistan. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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iconic images of human rights violations, photography and journalism

Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (122): Casualties in Stalingrad

As Russians are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Stalingrad – even temporarily giving Volgograd back its old name – here’s a useful reminder of the horror of the event:

Stalingrad civilian casualties 1942

Stalingrad civilian casualties 1942

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stalingrad

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Read the whole story here. More iconic images of human rights violations.

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