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Robert Nickelsberg June 10, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in India, Kashmir.
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Shah-i-Hamadan shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir 2010

Robert Nickelsberg (b. 1950, United States) has been TIME magazine contract photographer for 25 years based in New Delhi from 1988 to 2000. During that time, he documented conflicts in Kashmir, Iraq, Sri Lanka, India and Afghanistan. He was one of the few photographers who had first hand exposure to the early days of the rise of fundamentalist groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal areas and al-Qaeda, and his work provides a unique up close view of the Soviet withdrawal, the rise of the Taliban and the invasion by the U.S. Robert moved to New York in 2000 and continues to travel overseas – reporting on the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 – and focus on chronicling the devastating psychological effects of war in Kashmir. In 2008, he was awarded grants from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, and from the South Asia Journalists Association to document and report on post-traumatic stress disorder in Kashmir after 20 years of insurgency. He serves on the advisory board of the Kashmir Initiative at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

About the Photograph:

“I’ve been visiting the Shah-i-Hamadan mosque for over two decades. It’s one of a series of historic shrines that lace Srinagar’s old city, built with colorful paper mache artwork skillfully placed throughout the building. Regardless of when you visit the shrine, a special peacefulness prevails whether it’s during the uncrowded early morning or mid-afternoon hours or during prayer time when the mosque’s floors are usually filled. The photograph was taken of the women’s section at the end of Friday’s mid-day Jumma prayers when women linger to recite prayers from the Koran or greet their neighbors before walking home. It’s an island of tranquility, where Sufi spirituality serves as a healing mechanism for a population effected by chronic violence and trauma. Not only do the bereaved find comfort and refuge here, but so do occasional travelers.”

“The wooden shrine was the first mosque built in Kashmir in 1395 by the Persian saint Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani. Many Kashmiri civilians suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seek refuge in prayer and song (as well as attending medical clinics and hospitals). The numerous shrines in Kashmir provide a peaceful sanctuary to a population suffering from more than twenty-years of violence between Kashmiri Muslims, Islamic militants and the Indian Army. More than 70,000 civilians have died in the fighting beginning in 1989.”