The Jewish synagoge of Qamishlo in Syria

On one of my recent trips to the Kurdish self-administered parts of Syria – better known as ‘Rojava’ – my local fixer told me something very interesting. According to him, there was a Jewish synagogue, a graveyard, and perhaps even a small community of Jews left in Qamishlo. After some research, we were quite certain that the Jewish community of this city was nothing but a rumour anymore. People in the city have heard of such a community, but they all said, that this was past by now. An article published on Jerusalem Post in 2006 was able to track …

A landfill bringing Iraqis together, one garbage truck at a time

Many people probably never ask themselves where all the garbage in a city like Erbil ends up. Since there is no power or recycling plant to take care of it, it gets collected and ends up on a fairly big landfill just outside of Kurdistan’s capital. When my colleague Florian Neuhof recently told me about this place, I went there to check it out myself. I had an interest in this place also for the fact that my very first story as a photojournalist was the community of the Christian garbage collectors of Egypt’s capital Cairo. To my surprise, people …

The former US embassy in Tehran, Iran

Recently, I was taking a stroll around central Tehran, when I found out by accident, that the former US embassy site, which was the focus of the world for 444 days during a hostage crisis, has been turned into a public museum! This is the first time since the embassy was stormed by students 38 years ago in November 1979. I heard rumours before that allegedly the embassy was supposed to be open a single day of the year for visitors. The staff inside the museum told me otherwise, though. They said that the gates have never been open to …

Hezbollah’s Ashura in Beirut

On October 12th, tens of thousands of people gathered for Ashura in Beirut, the highest holiday in Shia Islam. As usual, the ceremonies take place in the Shia suburbs or Beirut, where the Shia party Hezbollah, has its headquarters and strongholds. Ashura is a memorial day to remember the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, dying alongside his six month old infant son Abdallah and 72 of his followers in the battle of Kerbala on October 10th in 680. Until today, Shia muslims all over the world gather to remember and mourn this day when Sunni and Shia Islam had their final …

The cemetery “Behesht-e Zahra” in Tehran, Iran

The central cemetery of Iran’s capital Tehran, is not only the biggest cemetery of the country, but also one of the biggest cemetery of the world. It is the final resting place to approximately 1.3 mio. people, and lies in the very south of the city. The following photo gallery is supposed to give you a general idea of the place, and the special buildings it hosts. There are isolated sections for the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war, sections for Iranians martyred during the Hajj to Mekka,  defenders of Islam, Iraqi-Kurdish victims of the 1988 gas attacks on Halabja, and …

Lalish – Yazidis’ home

I recently visited Lalish, the center of the Yazidi religion that came to fame after the Islamic state persecuted the approximately 650.000 members of this ancient religion in Iraq. Lalish can be easily visited from Duhok with a taxi, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get there. The valley is especially beautiful and green in spring. Fortunately, non-Yazidis are allowed to enter the perimeters of the place and can even enter the temple, where Sheikh Adi is buried. Only Yazidis can enter the aisles beneath the temple where the two holy springs can be reached, though. The two …

German Army training the Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center

Today I visited the German army a second time in the Zeravani compound east of Erbil to do an update about the training they do for the Peshmerga. I visited them the first time last year around this month. The German army press spokesperson says that they have stepped up the limit of German forces a little bit to 150 soldiers, but that at the same time there is no need for any more soldiers. Other forces contributing training and advising to Barzani’s Peshmergas are Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy. To my surprise, the battalion that is currently being …

A visit to Halabja

Today I visited the city of Halabja in Kurdistan, Iraq. A city that came to unexpected fame on March 16th 1988, when it was heavily gassed with chemical agents by the Iraqi air force. Approximately up to 5000 Kurdish people died in the attack. In 2016, the city remains a conservative PUK stronghold merely 10 kilometres away from the border with Iran. I didn’t dare to use my Arabic on the Kurds residing in this small city that can be easily reached from Sulaimaniyyah. Many say this was the turning point for the Kurds living under Saddam Hussein when he …

First Screening of “Bilder Krieg – Picturing War” in Germany

On Saturday, Konstantin Flemig showed his movie “Bilder Krieg – Picturing War” for the first time to a German audience. The movie was screened at the venues of the Sprechsaal in Berlin Mitte, where the War Zone Freelance Exhibition is currently showing their photos. One of the founders and exhibitors, Benjamin Hiller, is also the protagonist of the documentary. The film focuses entirely on the perilous and financially challenging work of freelancers in combat zones, the time before, during and after travelling. The exhibition at the Sprechsaal will be on display until April 15th. If you haven’t been there yet, …

The War Zone Freelance Exhibition in Berlin

On March 18, my friends and colleagues over at the War Zone Freelance Exhibition opened their newest exhibition in the venues of the Sprechsaal in Berlin, Germany. They show the work they have done over the years from countries like Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, or Jordan. The exhibition also includes various footage from their journeys and stresses the important work of translators and fixers, whom we journalists are in close relation with in order to do our job. On Thursday, they will have a panel discussion on how the media deals with graphic footage from war zones. If you can, go …