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 …

Nowruz celebrations in Akrê, Kurdistan

Newroz or Nowruz (meaning “New Day”) is the New Year’s Day in the Persian calendar. The festival of Nowruz is celebrated for a variety of reasons. In Kurdistan they tell the legend of a king that used to treat his people so bad that a person was sent to assassinate him. After the king was successfully eliminated, the assassin lit a massive fire in order to make people aware that the king was dead. To spread the news, everyone seeing the fire also lit a fire, so everyone in the country would know in the end. That was only one …

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 Jewish cemetery of Cairo, Egypt

One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world is located in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Before Israel was founded, Egypt had a flourishing Jewish community. Now the community is believed to consist of no more than 30 to 40 people, all of them living in Cairo and Alexandria. Each of these cities still has a working synagogue. Both of them are not publicly accessible, but opened on high Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur.     Another trace of the former thriving Jewish life in Egypt is the Jewish cemetery in Cairo. It is located roughly in the south …

The Jewish cemetery of Khartoum, Sudan

Very close to the central bus station, south of Souq al-Araby, Khartoum still has a tiny Jewish cemetery. The graveyard features no more than maybe 40-50 graves, many of them are in dire shape. The cemetery is located in an area of Khartoum that has a lot of car workshops. The workshops use the cemetery as a scrapyard and as a place to store their spare parts. The newest grave dates back to the forties, before Sudan became independent in 1956. At its peak, Sudan hosted 500-1000 Jews mostly living in Khartoum and Omdurman. There is another cemetery in Omdurman, …

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 …