This month we have three Dispatches: Adam Dean covers the earthquake in China, David Bathgate goes to Checkpoint Delta in Afghanistan with American soldiers and, in Iran Ali Shirjian considers the importance of a now-sacred battleground of the Iran-Iraq War.
Photojournalist Adam Dean was covering the cyclone catastrophe in Myanmar (the name the military dictators gave to Burma) when the earthquake struck in China. Once there, he was turned away at one checkpoint only to be helped later by other People's Liberation Army soldiers. He was, of course, surprised by their generosity in taking him to the worst affected areas near the earthquake's epicenter. He believes that this is a watershed moment for China's relationship with the press. We'll have to revisit the situation in the future.
David Bathgate returns with a dispatch based on his trip into the Hindu Kush of northern Afghanistan to a small U.S. military outpost named Checkpoint Delta. It sits on a narrow road very close to the Pakistani border and across from an encampment of the Afghan Border Police. These two groups work together to prevent supplies getting through the checkpoint into the Taliban's hands.
Iranian photojournalist Ali Shirjian tells the poignant story of Iranian families traveling to former battlefields in the spring to be with relatives who disappeared in the Iran-Iraq War that ended 18 years ago. Thousands died and their bodies were never recovered. The government has cleaned out the land mines in a few areas but left army vehicles half buried in the dirt, giving these places an unearthly look. The former battleground is approached as a sacred space where parents, children and wives can pray and commune with the lost.