…To follow the full story on Afghanistan (from my previous trip in 2000) we knew we also need it to head to the north-east to meet the Taliban opposition, the Northern Alliance, who controlled that portion of the country. This we could not do until a year later in August 2001.
Our first attempt to cross the border from Pakistan to the Northern Alliance area disguised as women wearing full covering burqas failed. We then spent the next three weeks organizing a ride into the country via Tajikistan on a Russian helicopter operated by the Northern Alliance… Jason Florio read/see more
19 years ago, September 2001, I was in Afghanistan with Pepe Escobar. On returning to my home in New York City I got the news on Sept 10th that Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud – ‘The Lion of the Panjshir’ (header image) – who we had recently been a guest of, had been assassinated by Al Qaeda operatives posing at journalists. The following day I was standing next to the Twin Towers, in Lower Manhattan as they collapsed…
My journey to the Taliban-controlled region of Afghanistan in August 2000 was in fact not planned. I was on my way to Kashmir to follow the ‘jihad trail’ when I got a call to join my colleague and writer Pepe Escobar, who was working on jihad stories on the Pakistan-Afghan border – he said: “This is (Afghanistan) where it’s really happening…”.
Crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border by foot at the Khyber pass we spent two weeks driving through the heart of Taliban-Afghanistan to try and get a clear understanding of who the Taliban were and how they held such sway over the populace. We felt we had dropped through a tear in the space-time fabric to the surreal land of corrupted ancient ideologies spouted from the mouths kohl-eyed men driving brand-new Toyota 4×4’s, where photography was outlawed – and because of which, we were arrested on two occasions… Jason Florio – read / see more images floriophoto.com
Gambia – justice for 2005 massacre: July 22nd, 2020 – Today marks 15 years since Gambian security forces, on the orders of then-President Yahya Jammeh, killed over 50 West African migrants.
In July 2005, 56 West African migrants, including 44 Ghanaians were murdered in The Gambia en route to Europe. The unarmed migrants were killed by the ‘Junglers’, a death squad reporting directly to Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s dictator at the time. Evidence has since emerged that Yahya Jammeh gave the orders to kill them. The families of the victims are still seeking justice. At the time of release of this documentary, Yahya Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea – ANEKED – watch the documentary, ‘I Cannot Bury My Father’
Ghanaian, Martin Kyere, is the sole known survivor of the 2005 massacre in The Gambia of the West African migrants.
“When one of the soldiers used his cutlass to cut off Adamo’s shoulder and the blood is flowing all over the place…I think we realized then, that the soldiers wanted to kill us all.”
After their capture, the migrants were badly beaten and then split into two groups and handed over to the Junglers, Jammeh’s hit squad. Over one week, the Junglers summarily executed the group. Martin managed to slip the rope from his wrist and escape into the bush, undercover of the night, minutes before the executions began of the group he was with. He spent 4 days walking in the Gambian bush avoiding coming into contact with anyone until he was able to cross the border to safety in southern Senegal.
“I jumped From the pickup and into the forest. I heard the soldiers shouting at me, but I did not look back. I ran harder…I tripped on something in the forest that brought me down and gunshots passed over me and around me. But, it was dark so I lay still and waited until it was safe to move again. I could hear behind me ‘Oh God save us, Oh God save us’, and gunshots”. Martin told us that he knew then that his friends were being killed.
Martin is now part of a campaign to bringJammeh2Justice, for himself and the families of all of those whose loved ones were executed in The Gambia and Senegal in July 2005.
“A credible international investigation is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of the 2005 massacre of West African migrants and create the conditions to bring those responsible to justice,” said Emeline Escafit, legal adviser at TRIAL International. “Until now, information has come out in dribs and drabs, year after year, from different sources.” Human Rights Watch
Current Location:July 2020 – Malta
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The tiny West African republic, The Gambia, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. However, most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His personal hit squad and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order.
In October 2018 the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) launched in The Gambia – a televised commission investigating the human rights violations under the 22-year dictatorial rule of President Yahya Jammeh. The TRRC, suspended over the past couple of months due to COVID19, resumed on Monday 8th June 2020, hearing testimonies from the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s rule, along with those of the alleged perpetrators. It is a long, and extremely painful process for many, to finally have their voices heard, but also to see and hear the voices of those who are implicated in meting out shocking tortures, killings, and human rights abuses, and about what happened to their loved ones.
For over three years, we have been collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the TRRC; and have created permanent and mobile exhibitions of the portraits and testimonies. The exhibitions have now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country, to bring the stories of victims to the people, to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgling democracy – in hopes of opening eyes and winning hearts and minds. And, we will continue making the portraits and filming testimonies once flights to Gambia resume after the lockdown.