Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. We recently spoke with photographer Marcus Bleasdale about his work in the Central African Republic.
Pope Francis brought his appeal for peace into a war zone last weekend when he visited the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by violence between Muslim and Christian militias.
Muslims and Christians alike celebrated the pope’s visit. Once he left, however, violence returned. A Muslim man was found dead on Tuesday after he tried to leave a Muslim enclave encircled by the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia in the capital of Bangui. Two days later, rebels from the mainly Muslim Seleka movement killed eight civilians at a camp for displaced people near the central town of Bambari.
Fighting erupted in the Central African Republic in 2013 when the Seleka seized control of the government, and the anti-Balaka militias emerged to fight their brutal rule. The violence quickly spun out of control as atrocities by both militias against civilians mounted, leaving at least 5,000 people dead and nearly 1 million displaced. The conflict has been simmering since a peace deal was signed last July. Presidential elections planned for October were postponed after violence flared again in the capital.
The WorldPost spoke to Marcus Bleasdale, an award-winning photographer who witnessed some of the most horrific days of the conflict. He and Human Rights Watch’s director of emergencies, Peter Bouckaert, traveled through the war-ravaged country, collecting testimonies and images published by Human Rights Watch, National Geographic and Foreign Policy magazine. A photo book of his work, The Unravelling: Central African Republic, with essays by Bouckaert and a foreword by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, was published last month.