my project name

Faded Tulips

Technical specification:
96 pages
4-color printing
223 x 260mm, closed format, portrait
150 gsm GardaPad Kiara paper
Case bound, hard cover

I remember becoming conscious of Kyrgyzstan for the first time when I saw Asiatic looking men surging toward an imposing soviet-style administrative building in march 2005. Once inside the building they started to vandalise and loot anything they found and soon after a few men appeared on the roof of the building, brandishing a flag. This event became known as the "tulip revolution" and the press reported that the Kyrgyz people, motivated by social injustice, had overthrown the authoritarian and corrupt regime of president Askar Akayev and replaced him with Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

It was not until a few years later, with the country removed from the limelight and forgotten, that I visited Kyrgyzstan for the first time. I set out to discover what the tulip "revolution", which was supposed to have lead to a democratic transition in the country, had really accomplished. This so-called revolution seemed to have been no more than a power grab. The elections were still rigged, some media were censured, political opponents were being arrested and Kyrgyzstan was considered one of the 15 most corrupt countries in the world. Even today, 40% of the population live below the poverty line and many look back to the soviet era with nostalgia. Today people speaks of the tulip revolution as a coup d'etat disguised as a popular revolution.

I continued to visit the country over the course of several trips. I was struck by the growing instability there which eventually lead to the bloody riots of April 2010. This was a new revolution, perhaps a little more authentic this time. The nepotistic Bakiyev was overthrown in his turn and found refuge in Belarus, as Akayev had five years earlier. There followed a period of great unrest during which Osh, the major city in the south, was the scene of ethnic clashes. Officially, around 500 people were killed. In truth, the numbers are probably much higher. 400 000 people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, were displaced from their homes. I covered the aftermath of this tragedy and was deeply affected by the violence and the scale of the disaster.

Having witnessed the struggles of people on the lower end of Kyrgyz society, in my essay I am trying to understand and explain how this small country could descend so quickly into such extreme violence.

Faded tulips is a journey through a young country at the crossroads of different worlds, born out of the break-up of the soviet union 20 years ago. It is an immersion in the daily life of a disenchanted people living amidst the ruins of their past and whose present is undermined by poverty, clannishness, corruption, and chronic political instability.

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William Daniels

Panos Picture

French documentary photographer based in Paris whose work revolves around social issues and humanitarian concerns mostly focusing on isolated or weakened communities.

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