From Liberian Rebels to the Afghan Front Lines

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Tim Hetherington tells of his work

By Joshua Philipp for The Epoch Times

Read the full article about Tim Hetherington in a talk with Mario Tama at NYU on The Epoch Times’ website

NEW YORK—He has taken a unique approach to documentary journalism: living his stories. From the battlefields of the Liberian Civil War to the front lines in Afghanistan, documentary filmmaker and award-winning photographer Tim Hetherington has experienced his stories in ways that few have.

During a presentation at New York University on Dec. 8 Hetherington explained his art and shared his insights on what he has witnessed.

He has seen what the rebels and soldiers have seen, marched where they marched, and shot a different element of the battle. Rather than focus his work on the carnage and violence which characterizes war, Hetherington instead turned his camera inward—toward the soldiers and the lives behind the uniforms. Young men with guns.

His art took form during the Liberian Civil War which lasted from 1999 to 2003. A friend approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse—to live with the rebel forces, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) who would eventually remove President Charles Taylor from power and establish a new rule.

“My work is really born out, initially, as a kind of witnessing or engagement,” said Hetherington.

Rather than make a one-time visit to shoot photos of the aftermath, Hetherington returns again and again, which allows for a “perceptual process” to develop in his work, as he explains it.

“I was kind of inside the war,” he said. “I mean we lived with these guys and there was no way out. We couldn’t fly in or fly out, we lived with them. It was the rainy season, we had little food, and we lived in pretty extreme circumstances.” Hetherington was embedded with Liberian rebels with a friend and fellow journalist.

Read the full article about Tim Hetherington in a talk with Mario Tama at NYU on The Epoch Times’ website

NYC Forum to Feature Tim Hetherington


Attend an evening with Tim Hetherington, an award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker on Tuesday, Dec. 8. He will discuss his new book, Long Story Bit By Bit: Liberia Retold, as well as his upcoming documentary about a platoon of U.S. Airborne soldiers in Afghanistan. A book signing and reception will follow the event

This is the inaugural Ground View forum, the first in a series of intriguing and informative events featuring journalists who have witnessed some of the world’s most important news firsthand.

Location: NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute

20 Cooper Square, 6th Floor, New York, NY

Time: Slide show/Discussion/6:30 pm

Book signing and reception to follow

Admission: General Admission $12.00


Voices from the War on Terror

See more from my Foreign Policy Association blog about Media and Foreign Policy here

PEN American Center will host what promises to be an engaging, eye-opening, and interesting event (regardless of one’s political ideology) about the U.S.’s so-called war on terror.

Reckoning with Torture: Memos and Testimonies from the “War on Terror” will include Matthew Alexander, Jonathan Ames, K. Anthony Appiah, Paul Auster, Ishmael Beah, Don DeLillo, Eve Ensler, Jenny Holzer, A.M. Homes, Jameel Jaffer, Susanna Moore, Jack Rice, Amrit Singh, and Art Spiegelman. Guests are writers, artists, lawyers, a former U.S. interrogator, and others.

Co-hosted by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the event will look at acts of abuse and torture during the war on terror. Event participants will read from the recently-released secret documents that have brought these abuses to light—memos, declassified communications, and testimonies by detainees—and respond with thoughts about how the U.S. can move forward.

When: Tuesday, October 13
Where: The Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th St., NYC
What time: 7 p.m.

Tickets: $15/$10 for PEN/ACLU Members and students with valid ID at Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

The Lioness of Afghanistan

by Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times and the Foreign Policy Association

One American woman’s personal battle to turn back the tide on the Taliban

Sonia Nassery Cole commands a room no matter what the size, and it’s for a good cause.

Cole, who has both Afghan and American citizenship, is founder and CEO of the Afghanistan World Foundation (AWF). The non-profit organization works to assist the humanitarian needs of Afghans and rebuild their country. AWF was founded in the wake of 9/11 in 2002, but its roots go back to the 1980s when Cole became a vocal advocate for her home country. She started by writing a letter to then-President Ronald Reagan to ask for his help.

Sonia Nassery Cole at the Children's Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Sonia Nassery Cole at the Children's Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“I never dreamed that he wouldn’t answer my letter,” says Ms. Cole, recalling her first step into what has become a lifetime of advocating on behalf of those who have no voice.

But Reagan did respond, and invited the young refugee to the White House. She organized congressional testimony to arm legendary Afghan rebel commander Ahmad Massoud and his Northern Alliance Freedom Fighters. Massoud, who was later assassinated, was nicknamed the lion of Afghanistan. He called Cole his “lioness” for her work and spirit on behalf of their country. It’s a nickname she has lived up to, and then some.

Cole is as unfailingly polite as she is incomparably passionate about rebuilding Afghanistan from decades of war and the poison grip of the Taliban. And she knows how to be genuinely charming when describing deadly serious situations.

Case in point was a recent screening and presentation in New York City of a documentary she produced about an 8-year-old Afghan boy who is the sole income-earner in his family, called The Bread Winner. Cole surprised the audience by stepping out from behind the podium to give a heartfelt explanation of the story behind the making of the documentary.

But if Ms. Cole has mastered the art of charming an audience, she also knows how to keep the focus on the urgent situation in Afghanistan.

“The country is falling apart because of the Taliban,” said Ms. Cole during the presentation.


Politicians Don’t Decide What Information Illuminates a Story

by Genevieve Long for the Foreign Policy Association

U.S. President Barack Obama reversed a significant decision this past week. He decided to go back on his promise to release photographs of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan that were taken a few years ago. The popular sentiment among the more conservative-minded might be that Obama is well within his right as Commander-in-Chief to do what he considers in the interest of national security. On the surface this does appear to be a sound argument for the reversed decision.

But dig a little deeper, and the logic that national security and our troops are being protected by thwarting the publication of said photos is actually a hairline crack in the foundation of free speech. And it’s the type of decision that can weaken a democracy.

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson said:

“One of the amendments to the Constitution… expressly declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,’ thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.”

The freedom to think, speak, and believe freely is a great source of strength for Americans. But it can also be a great challenge. We are given explicit protection to be free, but no explicit instructions how to use that freedom. Therein lies the genius of the founding fathers’ conclusion in the Declaration of Independence that government must draw it’s “just powers from the consent of the governed”. A consenting citizenry must be an informed citizenry, otherwise it will always be at odds over what exactly it is consenting to.

Photos of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, for this very reason, should be released. The world, not just Americans, learned in the worst way that what goes on overseas in dark prison cells in the name of the United States makes the citizens of the United States linked to those events by association. Abu Grahib. Guantanamo. Black sites in Europe. The world will never know the extent of suffering that has been inflicted, only the imagined possibilities based on pieces of the story.

During a press briefing in Washington on May 13, President Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made the basic point in the President’s argument to a fiesty press corps confounded by Obama’s decision.

Gibbs’s response, in part:


Award Winning Journalist at Forefront of Press Freedom Struggle in Afghanistan

by Genevieve Long for The Foreign Policy Association

Press freedom in war-torn Afghanistan is regressing to a Taliban-era level of restrictions, according to a recent report. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based press advocacy organization, visited Afghanistan in January to survey the current situation. Their report is entitled, “We have free speech, but we’re not safe and don’t act responsibly.”

“Because of the deterioration of the situation, some of them feel that they are back to a sort of Taliban situation,” said Vincent Brossel, Asia Director for RSF. Brossel spent a little over a week traveling throughout Afghanistan and interviewing local journalists. Brossel found that the situation is grim, and threats against working journalists are common. RSF also found that the Afghan Interior Ministry has been largely ineffective and even inactive in providing help and support.

“In fact, they [the Interior Ministry] don’t take action and their investigations rarely go to the end,” said Brossel, who points to the case of slain journalist Zakia Zaki. According to Brossel, she was killed by warlords and her murder was never “seriously” investigated. “Even the Interior Ministry once put pressure on her husband because he was asking for justice.”

Farida Nekzad, a veteran journalist of ten years who lives and works in Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, says the greatest danger that journalists face comes from the dual threat of warlords and the Taliban.