The war in Afghanistan is far from over, though one might forget as much given the Western media's waning interest in the conflict. As the longest war in American history unfolds, with more than 3,000 civilian casualties and 566 coalition fatalities recorded last year alone, critical stories from within the country continue to go untold.
HuffPost World is proud to partner with Razistan, a new initiative working with both local Afghan photographers and foreign photojournalists, to share the underreported stories of Afghanistan and its people. The name Razistan means "land of secrets," and the project aims to showcase the situation in Afghanistan through a series of photo essays.
Scroll down to read HuffPost World's full Q&A with Razistan's publisher Marcos Barbery and learn more about the project.
Check out a selection of photographs from Razistan below showing the unseen sides of the war.
Marcos Barbery, Razistan's New York-based publisher, tells HuffPost about the origins and purpose of the project:
What compelled you personally to co-found a new outlet on Afghanistan?
Though my brother was a Black Hawk Pilot and Captain in the U.S. Army, he spent three years serving as a civilian in Afghanistan. He and his colleagues oversaw training of Afghan Security Forces and disbursement of billions in taxpayer funds from Konduz in the north to Helmand in the south -- the Afghan province where most American fatalities have occurred. As anyone with family or friends in the Afghan conflict knows, the American press has neglected its responsibility to adequately cover the war. Last year, Afghanistan accounted for less than two percent of news content published in the United States. This was the same year that over 3,000 Afghan civilians and nearly 600 coalition members were killed.
How did the idea for the project come together and what stage are you in now?
Late last year, I met with two Kabul-based journalists, Luke Mogelson, a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, and Pieter Ten Hoopen, a two-time World Press Photo award winner. We felt that publishers, editors and journalists have a joint responsibility to generate and sustain interest on stories of public importance. As a result, we committed to creating a new photojournalism outlet focused exclusively on Afghanistan. In April we launched a fundraising campaign for Razistan through Kickstarter and a preview site of images on Tumblr. If we reach our fundraising target, we will launch this summer.
How did you decide on the name Razistan?
There was an initial gravitation to generate a name that signaled we would be covering the longest war in American history. Over the last decade, however, publishers and journalists snapped up obvious names such as The Forever War and The Long War and others. So we settled on a name that more narrowly reflects our goal to unveil hidden or untold elements of the Afghan war, the county, and its people. Razistan means “Land of Secrets” in Dari, one of two languages widely spoken in Afghanistan.
What do you hope to achieve by highlighting these subjects and who is your target audience?
American publishers argue that the current level of news coverage on Afghanistan reflects a lack of public interest in the war as well as a shortage of qualified journalists based in Afghanistan. This justification is neither accurate nor true. We structured Razistan as a nonprofit to counter the commercialization of news. We seek distribution partnerships with outlets that may suffer from limited resources but nevertheless share in our mission to give Afghanistan the attention it demands. We aim to reach Western audiences and reframe Afghanistan for the general public. We hope that Razistan’s nuanced coverage will engender the public to think more critically about the war and Afghanistan’s future.
How would you describe most news coverage of Afghanistan and how is Razistan different?
There’s a tendency to deliver the war’s impact through the distorting lens of domestic politics. To publishers this is an editorial strategy that pays dividends during the election cycle. Razistan is scheduled to launch next month -- at a time when news wires will be full of the tit-for-tat political match. Meanwhile, they will decrease space for more costly foreign coverage, leaving the electorate under-informed and more susceptible to the hijacking of the Afghanistan issue by politicians. Over the coming weeks and months, when we read more “breaking news” about a battle of tweets between Mitt Romney’s wife and the Obama campaign, we must keep in mind that 88,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan. We feel an unequivocal responsibility to cover the true impact of war on coalition forces as well as civilians and the Afghan people. Photography manages to cut through the politicization of war and illustrate how far removed topics such as impending domestics elections are on individuals who live under the constraints of conflict.
How do the journalists working with Razistan move around the country safely?
Razistan draws on the extraordinary talent of photojournalists living and working in Afghanistan. Our contributors have spent years covering the war. But to the extent that they work independently and outside infrastructure provided by traditional foreign news bureaus, it’s challenging to gauge the magnitude of risk they are taking. Several weeks ago, three of Razistan’s founding contributors were caught between a grueling firefight in the Afghan capital. Their images, which were published on Razistan’s Tumblr page in real-time, speak for themselves. I know that many of our contributors are studying emergency medical response skills. Though my feeling is that they are doing so not to help themselves in conflict but to be better equipped to provide care for the victims of violence they come across. If you flip through the images we already published, it's clear that our team shares a collective conscience to capture the human elements of war. This is rare and derives from a commitment to approach vulnerable subjects and topics as a human being first and journalist second.