© Carsten Stormer
I am honoured to publish the work of Carsten Stormer, a German writer and photographer. Carsten brings to our attention a horrendous form of violence in Cambodia: acid throwing.
"They call themselves survivors, refusing to accept the stigma of victimhood. And somehow, they survive. You see them on sugarcane plantations in the middle of nowhere. In the trash dumps of Phnom Penh. In flimsy bamboo lean-tos where relatives hide their own shame and helplessness. People call them Cambodia's living dead. They are the forgotten victims of a war that ended a generation ago but lives on in the souls of the country's people.
"Acid attacks deprive people of more than their looks and sight. Families are torn apart. Husbands leave their wives, and vice versa. Children are separated from their parents. Jobs vanish overnight, turning professionals into beggars. Many victims cannot get through a day without constant assistance, becoming burdens on their families. All bear the mark of the pariah."
"There is an invisible wall dividing Cambodia. Since global companies discovered its low wages, the country is in the fast lane back to the future. But there has been no public discussion of the civil war and mass murder committed over 30 years ago by the Khmer Rouge. Hardly anyone was held accountable. It was simply assumed that time heals all wounds - somehow. The past fades to black. Only the present counts, the here and now.
"What remains is a traumatized society in which domestic disputes, unhappy love affairs, and professional rivalries are nearly always resolved through violence. Hardly a family without its members lost to the ideological battles of the Khmer Rouge - a curse that is passed on from parents to children. Battery acid is known to be most uncomplicated way of causing lifelong suffering. A dollar will buy you a quart of acid on any street corner. The perpetrators are seldom punished. Their targets become outcasts."
"There is no specific criminal law on acid attacks, and the attacks are not tallied separately from other assaults. The authorities are aware of 11 cases so far in 2011, but the unreported number could be much higher. Many victims are terrified any form of resistance might provoke another attack. Many cases disappear without a trace in the Cambodian court system." Carsten Stormer.
Unlike similar incidents in Pakistan or Bangladesh, acid attacks in Cambodia don't focus on women only. According to Wikipedia "..these type of attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. ...80% of victims of these acid attacks are female and almost 70% are under 18 years of age.
The photos were in the final of the Leica-Oscar-Barnack-Award as well as on the shortlist for the Henri-Nannen-Award.
All images © Carsten Stormer