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winner « Photo Contest: "Why Afghanistan Matters"

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Reaction by one of our Contest Winners

Andreas Zapounidis, who won the “People of Afghanistan” category with his photo “History and Smiling Future” had the following to say in response to winning:

  • On why he entered the contest:

I like very much the art of photography , the magic moment , the second of eternity.  I entered the contest also coz its my duty, as án amateur photographer , but first as a member of ISAF and always as a [distant relative] of Afghans; before 2300, Greeks and Afghans were family.

  • On having won:

…thanks very much all the people who voted my photo (Greeks and not Greeks), thanks to the people who didn’t vote for my photo, but participated the contest.
Thanks the administrator of this contest with his efforts to help this contest succed.  My photo with the Greek king Great Alexander symbol of Thessaloniki city (my birthplace)
and with the smiling carpet trader, is the target of the 42 Nations members of ISAF and of NATO countries. Hearts and minds. If we want a peaceful world , under the rules of democracy justice and progression, without terrorists and enemies of freedom, we should read more the Greek history and the art of Great Alexander’s leadership. Hearts and minds was the task before 2300 years for Hellenic army. He succeeded in that 2300 years ago, without internet, tv, radio and satelites, we can do it and today it is easy. Just we should follow his steps and then all the world will see the greatness of blessed future. Afghans love Great Alexander, the carpet trader in Kabul bazaar was proud of his History. The Hellenic army helps the peace and Alliance with many costs, but with pride.

  • On how will you use your prize?

I will sell my old camera and I will send the money to USAID, they NGO’S (non-governmental organization’s) need support too. They are also my allies ! I am military but first I am citizen of the world, and our world needs solidarity between troops and civilians.

  • Other thoughts or impressions?

I want to send two messages. One to the people of Afghanistan – I want to say that, as Hellenicos (Greek) from Pontos and from Macedonia, as faraway [relatives], always I will do my best for a better future in Afghanistan for all Middle East and Persia. Half of my heart is in the West and the other half is in Asia. Keep staying proud for your future brothers.
God bless Hellas. God bless our Alliance. God bless Afghanistan

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Reaction by One of Our Contest Winners

I am very grateful for winning the “ISAF in Action” category. I am glad I won, it is an honor. I am glad I won a camera too. Now I can take more pictures while I go to school at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
The picture I took is of a MEDEVAC for an Afghan child who was caught in between the crossfire of ISAF soldiers and the Taliban in Helmand Province in 2008.
But my philosophy is that a cameraman/journalist shouldn’t be honored. I just took pictures and documented what was going on. I just want the ISAF infantrymen and the Afghan National Army to get more attention and have their service and sacrifice documented into the sands of time. Especially the Afghan people for having to live in a war zone. It is unimaginable. Sometimes I look in my backyard or down my street and imagine if there were foreign troops walking by. It is hard to comprehend, and life is tough for Afghans. Just living is tough for them. The average [life span] of an Afghan is around 42, and they die from little things like not having clean water or heat to keep warm in the winter. Plus their country side is riddled with land mines and bombs, with battles going on in their villages. I just hope one day they will live in peace. And hopefully, our pictures will show our children and grandchildren, the struggles that went on in Afghanistan. War is filled with horror, but one thing that got me through Afghanistan was seeing the smiles on all of the Afghan children. That is one reason I took so many pictures of the children. Because we are fighting for their future, and I hope the future of Afghanistan is filled with smiles, music and dancing. Not war or radical laws enforced by the Taliban.
One of the main reasons I entered the contest was to have more people see some of my pictures and get a better understanding of Afghanistan. I want more people from all over the world to know the stories of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who serve in Afghanistan – especially the service members from the approximately 40 countries operating in Afghanistan. For example, I think the average American has no idea of this diverse group of soldiers in ISAF who are from all over the world. It is not an American War, but an international effort. I also want more people to know about the brave British Royal Marines in 42 Commando who fought and died in Helmand in 2008. But most importantly, I want more people to understand and know more about the Afghan people. I have traveled all around the world, and the Afghan people are wonderful and some of the nicest people I have met. They have many struggles and are in a very bad situation and need all the help they can get from the International Security Assistance Force.
I hope my pictures and the rest of the contestants pictures were able to help educate the world and show them a place that may seem alien to many westerners. Thank you for holding this contest, I think many eyes were opened after seeing the diverse portfolio of photographs that were used in this contest.
I just wish I was back in Afghanistan taking pictures for ISAF again.

Editor’s note:  John Scott Rafoss won the category “ISAF in Action” with his photo entry “Medevac”

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