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February 24, 2011

Alan Chin on the Tunisia-Libya Border: A Hundred Miles

The lanes for leaving Tunisia and entering Libya, entirely empty and deserted as the only crossings at this moment are in the other direction of people fleeing the violence.

Just a few short weeks ago, first Tunisia and then Egypt were the flash points of protest and revolution. Then, the tidal wave of revolt against autocracy reached Libya, and all of a sudden Tunisia and Egypt overnight became the safe havens of stability. Qaddafi’s indiscriminate use of force and heavy weaponry has exceeded that of any of the other regimes, and Libya may be descending into civil war if he doesn’t lose this battle quickly.

From the Tunisian border to Tripoli, it is only a hundred miles along the Mediterranean coast highway. Fighting has been reported in the towns along the way, with some having fallen to the revolutionary forces and others counter-attacked by Qaddafi. But at the border post of Ras Ajdir, all we can see of these momentous events is the steady stream of people leaving, and none entering. The Qaddafi regime still controls the Libyan side of this border, unlike in the east where the triumphant uprising has opened the gates, allowing movement in from Egypt.

A slow but steady stream of thousands of mostly Egyptian and Tunisian guest-workers leave Libya. They board buses to continue their journey to safety.

At any moment, we journalists gathered here calculate, the revolution will reach this border and we’ll be able to enter. But when or how that might happen, we can only speculate. These hundred miles might as well be a million right now. I remember Ruweished in Jordan, bordering Iraq. Termez in Uzbekistan, across the river from Afghanistan. Skopje in Macedonia, when hundreds of thousands of Kosovars were pushed out by Serbian paramilitaries. Once again, all we can do is wait and see, if we decide to stay here.

–Alan Chin

PHOTOGRAPHS by ALAN CHIN

To see full BagNews series: Middle-East Uprising 2011

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About the Photographer

Alan Chin

Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Since 1996, he has worked in China, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In the US, Alan has explored the South, following the historic trail of the civil rights movement and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, covered multiple presidential campaigns, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. He is a contributing photographer to Newsweek/Daily Beast and The New York Times, a member of Facing Change: Documenting America (FCDA), and an editor at Newsmotion.org. You can see all Alan's posts for BagNews here.

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