At least a month before the devastating fires that tore through the southeast of Australia in February, it was possible to see something dangerous was building.
by Nick Moir
There was a sense of desperation in the air.
by Bernardo De Niz
But I also liked the Tartars' astounding energy in spite of everything -- they were trying to survive despite the local bureaucracy. They were not giving up anything.
by Ilker Gurer


In Dispatches for March we have Nick Moir's account of covering the deadly Australian wildfires with still images and video. Bernardo De Niz has sent a dispatch from China about that country's rapidly rising unemployment and its effects on the migrant population from the countryside, and Ilker Gurer writes about the return of exiled Tartars to the Crimea.

The recent Australian wildfires went on through most of February and covered a great deal of land. Nick Moir reports that in January there had been a heat wave on top of the long-standing drought, providing fodder for naturally and unnaturally started fires. The authorities have arrested one person on suspicion of arson. On the worst day there were 100 fires covering 620 miles [1000km]. As recently as Feb. 27 it was reported that more fires were igniting, causing thousands more people to flee their homes. In high winds, as Moir writes, one cannot outrun a fire. Wary of a firestorm like the one on Feb. 7, AFP reported: "More than 3,000 firefighters backed by water-bombing helicopters and planes were on high alert in case four major fires burning in rural Victoria state threatened lives and property."

After China's rapid rise in the standard of living and with many goods being exported to the United States and elsewhere, the sudden worldwide economic plunge has stunned that country. Bernardo De Niz went to a factory city to report on the many laid-off migrant workers. A New York Times article by Keith Bradsher on Feb. 5, 2009 stated that migrant workers returned from the Chinese New Year holiday early in order to find new jobs to replace the former ones they had lost. Most were not successful. Bradsher writes: "One big mystery is how many factories have closed permanently and how many are simply giving long holiday furloughs to their workers. Provincial and national statistics on businesses and factories are often contradictory. And government statistics on unemployment overall are not considered reliable." The authorities are watching out for any problems with the unemployed workers. De Niz writes that people leaving town with clothes in plastic bags and buckets reminded him of the photographs of the Great Depression in the U.S.

The Crimea is an autonomous part of Ukraine and is a peninsula that stretches into the Black Sea. Photojournalism in Crimea has noble roots: Roger Fenton, one of the first, if not the first war photographer, covered the Crimean War waged between Britain and France against Russia on the same ground in 1855. For Dispatches, Turkish photographer Ilker Gurer tells the story of the present problems of Tartars who are returning to the Crimea from their exiles within the Soviet Bloc. As Gurer writes, all Crimean Tartars were deported en masse in May 1944 on suspicion that some had collaborated with the Nazis. Since Perestroika in the 1980s, groups have made their way back and would like to claim their former family homes and property. They have borne a heavy load in exile and are still having a hard time in their temporary housing. Gurer writes of several resilient Tartars in their 70s with long memories.

Marianne Fulton
Dispatches Editor

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