Power and Suffering in Afghanistan: the Taliban Regime 1996-2001 | Dimitris Messinis



Dimitris Messinis

Exhibition design: Sissy Karadimitriou

Coproduction: Ιslahane Cultural Venue – Former School of Arts and Crafts Hamidie, Museum of Byzantine Culture

Fujifilm Inkjet Photo-Paper: FUJIFILM HELLAS S.A.

Opening: Wednesday, 18 October, 18:00

Photographic depiction of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime from 1996 until 2001 by Dimitris Messinis constitutes an autopsy based on three interconnected aspects of reality at that time: the field of battle with Taliban fighters as the main focus, the public institutions –Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Education, Kabul Hospital- and the scenes on the street, and the civilians’ everyday life and routine.
A chaotically contrasted triptych, absurd in the combination of its components, full of contradictions, focused on public and private life, on the suzerain’s and the victim’s roles, where the one tragically disproves the other, even though they are both rigidly realistic. Photographic shots, permitted and prohibited ones. Shots tolerated when they don’t cross the subjective boundary of the photographed person and permission authorizer, who is always a momentary mouthpiece of the Taliban’s power. At the same time, prohibited photographic shots, often “stolen” in a regime that prohibits public photoshoots. The first ones demonstrate imposition, power, bravery, combativeness, the sharia, the emphasis on the fighter’s masculine role. Antitank rockets, tanks, RPGs, anti-aircraft machine guns, howitzers, artilleries march sarcastically in front of our eyes. The second ones reveal poverty, destitution, beggary, pain, depersonalization, submission. Inbetween, the street life is photographed, throwing light on the absurd. Unarmed refugees, faceless women, tragic beggary figures, children on hold, the Bridge of Peace shut down at the threat of Taliban’s military advance.

As in September of 1999, the Council of the European Union announced an Action Programme for Afghanistan with its main concerns being health, human rights, migration, the imposition of theocracy, the tangible recording of reality through Dimitris Messinis’ photographic archive constitutes a discernible testimony of the bad conditions that civilians endured.

The Mogul Emperor Babur’s Mausoleum, the 2000-meters height of Himalaya, the tanks, the farmer’s market, the destroyed buildings of Kabul from the times of Soviet occupation, the sand storms, the poor makeshift means of civilian transportation, the lines of the Northern Forefront constitute the Dimitris Messinis’ photo-journalistic document’s background, from November 1996 to November 2001, during the 1st Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. An authentic, vital, illustrated testimony about the regime.


He served photojournalism for the Greek and the foreign press from 1978 until 2014. From 1997 until 2014 he worked at Associated Press, managing the photographic department of Associated Press from 2004 until 2006, based in London, for Europe, Middle East and Africa. During 2006-2014 he worked as manager of the photographic department of Associated Press for Southeastern Europe. He covered military clashes in former Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Lebanon, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Yemen. He has also covered seven Olympics Games and eight European and World football cups. He was awarded in 2003 with the highest journalistic Greek distinction –the Botsis Award- for the coverage of Afghanistan’s war and he is the recipient of many worldwide journalistic awards. Between 2008-2013 he was elected as President, Vice President and Secretary-General for the Foreign Press Association of Greece.

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