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The Power of Photography: A Journey through Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Yemen

Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay
Screenshot of Foreign Policy photo essay

Not only do pictures say a thousand words, they provide insights to worlds, lives and people behind the headlines, news stories and carefully researched in-depth articles. Words can never quite convey the reality of life in conflict zones or after natural disasters.

I found the following photo essays to provide just such insight. They are beautiful as photographs, but also as pictorial narratives that we as visually wired creatures can appreciate, analyze and use in the formation of a more comprehensive picture of world events and places.

The first one is a harrowing and touching photo essay on the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia, put together by Alan Taylor of the Boston Globe.

The second and third collection provide insights into two of the most talked about conflict zones in the world, Afghanistan and Yemen. These photo essays by Foreign Policy show life behind the headlines, often normal and ordinary; historically rich and sometimes stunningly beautiful.

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ISN Weekly Theme: Islam in Southeast Asia

Muslim girls walking to school in Indonesia, photo: Shreyans Bhansali/flickr
Muslim girls walking to school in Indonesia, photo: Shreyans Bhansali/flickr

Islam, Islamic politics and religiously motivated violence are usually issues associated with the wider Middle East region or South Asia.

Less visible, yet no less significant is the presence of Islamic politics, tensions and political expression in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

A region marked by immense historical and religious diversity, by painful historical schisms, and in certain cases by an unrivaled dynamism and ability to marry Islam with modernity, Southeast Asia deserves closer inspection and more contextually sensitive analysis.

This week the ISN publishes a Special Report on the issue with a backgrounder on Islam in the region and a case study of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines.

We have a wealth of further information on the topic in our Digital Library and Current Affairs section- check out:

  • In our Links section, check out the website of the National Bureau of Asian Research which analyzes less visible issues related to Islam and Muslim societies in Asia.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Two boys at a cafe, Makassar, Indonesia / photo: Mo Riza, flickr
Two boys at a cafe, Makassar, Indonesia / photo: Mo Riza, flickr

What do you do when you’re number 126 out of 180 on Transparency International’s corruption perception list? What do you do when prosecuting mid- and high-level officials for corruption doesn’t seem to be doing enough to curb the corrupt tendencies rampant in society?

Well, if you’re Indonesia, you start with the basics. In an ingenious move aimed at teaching people the value of honesty, Indonesia’s attorney general and his provincial counterparts have kick-started a national campaign that aims to open 10 000 so-called ‘honesty cafes’ all over Indonesia by the end of the year. The idea- intuitive and inventive at once- is that instead of paying a set amount to a cashier (someone who is, in effect, employed to enforce morality in a low-level commercial transaction), customers pay an ‘honest amount’¬† into a clear, unsupervised¬† box.

In effect they pay what they think they should pay and pay because they know it is the right thing to do (and because others watch them pay). If I ever saw an interesting social experiment on a society-wide scale, this must be it.