Archive for Kandahar

Faces of Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2014 by stevemccurry

“A landscape might be denuded,
a human settlement abandoned or lost,
but always,
just beneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. . .
They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted
humankind, irrepressibly optimistic and proud.”
-  The Carpet Wars, Christopher Kremmer

_PBS6026_es (1)Kabul

AFGHN-10223Herat

01803_02_es_blogKabul

AFGHN-12331NF (1)Panjshir Valley

Yet even at their most turbulent, the Afghans have tended to impress
travellers with
their dignity and hospitality as much as their fierce independence.
- William Dalrymple,  author of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839–42

AFGHN-12691NF2 (1)Kabul

AFGHN-10211Charikar

AFGHN-12329Bamiyan

God must have loved Afghans because he made them so beautiful.
- Unknown

PAKISTAN-10003Peshawar, Pakistan Afghan refugee 

AFGHN-13164Kabul

AFGHN-12906Bamiyan

AFGHN-13831Bamiyan

AFGHN-12244NF (2)Kunduz

AFGHN-12316Pul-e-Khumri

In Afghanistan, you don’t understand yourself solely as an individual.
You understand yourself as a son, a brother, a cousin to somebody, an uncle to somebody.
You are part of something bigger than yourself.
- Khaled Hosseini

AFGHN-13903Bamiyan

AFGHN-13899Kabul

AFGHN-10242 (1)Kandahar

AFGHN-10143NFPul-e-Khumri

AFGHN-12232Kabul

AFGHN-10060, Pul-i-Khumri, Afghanistan, 1992. A bandaged wounded boy.Pul-e-Khumri

AFGHN-12092Ghazni

AFGHN-12772Bamiyan

AFGHN-12355Kabul

A French man who worked for the ICRC had been to inspect one of Kabul’s
prisons to
check on the conditions of the prisoners.
After their names had all been verified, he noticed a door which had remained unopened for the inspection. 

The prison guard had been reluctant to open it;
behind it was just an old man in solitary confinement, he had said.
But it was the man’s job to count the prisoners, and he insisted on being shown inside.

When the door was open, he caught sight of a half-naked old man in the freezing and windowless cell.
The old man had tottered to his feet, lifted the scrap of cloth on which he sat,
brushed the dust from it and stepped back, smiling, to offer the space to his guest.
- Jason Elliott, An Unexpected Light

AFGHN-12201NF4Kabul

Beetles & Huxley Gallery
Afghanistan
London, UK
12 May through 7 June 2014

Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by stevemccurry

BURMA-10032NF5

Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma

 Everywhere I go in the world, I see young and old,
rich and poor, reading books.
Whether readers are engaged in the sacred or the secular,
they are, for a time, transported to  another world.

BURMA-10379

Myanmar/Burma

Ever since Gutenberg invented the printing press which enabled
everyone access to books, artists have tried to portray the relationship of readers and books.

BURMA-10120

Myanmar/Burma

Garrett Stewart’s book, The Look of Reading:
Book, Painting, Text, explores the relationship of
reading and art.He points out that a wide array of artists from Rembrandt to  Picasso and Cassatt
and dozens more,over the past 500 years
have painted people reading and the “look of reading” on the subjects’ faces.

CHINA-10056NF

Shanghai, China

ITALY-10263

Rome, Italy

ITALY-10267

Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

THAILAND-10066

Chiang Mai, Thailand

  We are familiar with words describing images, but not so
familiar with images describing words and the
impact reading has on our lives.

TURKEY-10088

Istanbul, Turkey

Reading a good book is a universal activity,
and people read while they do just about everything else.

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Afghan soldier takes cover from bombardment at Kandahar Airport

INDIA-10309NF

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
formerly Victoria Terminus, Mumbai/Bombay, India

INDIA-11377

Ujjian, India

We read to know we are not alone.
- C.S. Lewis

CUBA-10025

Havana, Cuba

FRANCE-10068, Lourdes, 10/1989,

Lourdes, France

USA-10235

Washington Square Park, New York

ITALY-10255NF

Venice, Italy

ITALY-10334

Rome, Italy

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
– Jorge Luis Borges

TURKEY-10078

Istanbul, Turkey

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
- Emily Dickinson

E X H I B I T I O N S

CHRIS BEETLES FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHS
3-5 Swallow Street
London W1B 4DE
September 7 –Extended to October 15, 2011

PETER FETTERMAN GALLERY
2525 Michigan Ave #A1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
September 10 – December 1, 2011
OPEN SHUTTER GALLERY
735 Main Avenue
Durango, CO
September 9 – December 14, 2011
LAURA RATHE FINE ART
Houston, TX
September 17 – October 15, 2011
MACRO
Museum of Contemporary Art
Rome, Italy
December 1, 2011 – April 29, 2012

Travelers’ Tales

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by stevemccurry

INDIA-10711NF-(1) Agra, India

Stories about travelers are as old as humankind.  

One of the earliest travelers’ tales was Homer’s Odyssey, from 800 B.C.E., the story of Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan Wars.

INDIA-10839Howrah Station, Calcutta, India

From Homer to Dante,  Xuanzang , Marco Polo and Cervantes to Halliburton, to Kerouac, Durell, Theroux, Iyer, writers have taken their readers along on their travels, whether the journey is  fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of both.

BURMA-10451, Burma, Myanmar, 02/2011Train Station, Burma/Myanmar

“The traveler sees what he sees.The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
- G. K. Chesterton

BURMA-10314Burma/Myanmar

He who does not travel does not know the value of men.
– Moorish proverb

AFGHN-10231Kandahar, Afghanistan

00163_01. Sri Lanka, 1995 Sri Lanka

_SM10433_2, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10373 Burma/Myanmar

“The World is a book,  and those who do not travel
read only a page.”
- St. Augustine

TIBET-10198NFKandze, Tibet

AFGHN-12295Kabul, Afghanistan

BURMA-10384; Myanmar, Burma; 02/2011Burma/Myanmar

AFGHN-12369Maimana, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12254Hindu Kush Mountains, Afghanistan

BURMA-10404; Myanmar (Burma); 02/2011Burma/Myanmar

AFGHN-10154Kabul, Afghanistan

EUROPE-10121, Russia, August, 2008, Final print_NovartisRussia

Children at Work

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFRICA-10237The Sahel, Africa

In developing countries one in six children from 5 to 14 years old is involved in child labor.

INDIA-10207Ship-breaking yard, Mumbai, India

Shoepolisher, Tibetans, 12/2000, final book_iconicLhasa, Tibet

In the least developed countries, 30 percent of all children are engaged in child labor.

Marpha, Nepal, 1998Marpha, Nepal

Worldwide, 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers.

AFGHN-13034NFKabul, Afghanistan

The highest proportion of child laborers is in sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of children (49 million) are involved in work.

AFGHN-12489
Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-13002Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12258-(1)Kandahar, Afghanistan

An estimated 1.2 million children — both boys and girls — are trafficked each year into exploitative work in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict or commercial sex work.

_SM13419, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10283Mandalay, Myanmar/ Burma

AFGHN-10025Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12925Bamiyan, Afghanistan 

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together,  and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.” -  Grace Abbott

 

AFGHN-12209Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Cigarette Vendor, Kabul Survey Trip, 05/2002 Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12243Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Charikar, Afghanistan, 2002

 ImagineAsia’s Storybook Project for Afghan Children

The mission of ImagineAsia, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help students in Afghan communities receive fundamental educational materials and resources. 

IA  has started to translate Aesop’s fables into Dari for the children of Afghanistan who have never had a book of their own.  Translated and illustrated by volunteers, these stories will reach families in remote areas of the country.

For thousands of years the fables have revealed universal truths through simple allegories.  The stories often use animals to  teach lessons that are easily understood by people of all ages.

Here are some sample pages:

The Lion and the Mouse –  illustrated by Jason Melcher

 The Boy Who Cried Wolf - illustrated by Kate Raines

Pitcher and the Crow -  illustrated by Lois Andersen

An Afghan Folktale – The Silver on the Hearth – illustrated by Kate Harrold

Tortoise and Hare –  illustrated by Kate Harrold


The Donkey and its Purchaser – illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Sun and the Wind – illustrated by Annie Zimmerman

 The Fox and the Goat – illustrated by Jason Melcher

 http://www.imagine-asia.org/

Sources: http://www.unicef.org, http://www.ilo.org, www.crin.org

Rationale, Rationalization, and Illogic

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2010 by stevemccurry
USA-10009

World Trade Center Collapse, September 11, 2001

Immediately after the atrocity at the World Trade Center on 9/11, we went into Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden, to root out Al Qaeda and  the Taliban which was protecting it, and to fight the “war on terror”.

AFGHN-12367NF

Nine years later, we are not only still there, but by almost anyone’s calculation, we are losing.  The Taliban has been able to strike in the capital numerous times, the general in charge of the troops has been relieved of his duty for intemperate comments about his superiors and the situation in general, and the signs of improvement are few and far between.

AFGHN-13022

The rationale for the mission has lurched from one rationale to another,  and officials in Washington and in Kabul all try to explain what we are trying to accomplish.   We have been told it is to keep the streets safe in America.  It has been said that we are there to give breathing room to the Afghan government to build up their own forces.  We hear that we are there to help build Afghan institutions so that the country can have a civil society.  How does that square with the facts now?

AFGHN-13028

According to the AP and ABC, CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Sunday there may be fewer than 50 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan. Panetta said, “I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity.”

President Barack Obama wants U.S. forces in Afghanistan to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.” About U.S. 98,000 troops will be in Afghanistan by fall.

AFGHN-12970NF

“It’s a curious thing about Afghanistan: every time a politician makes the case for why we need to stay, he or she ends up making the case for why we should leave.  And he thinks he’s making a case for staying! It’s truly bizarre how many in Washington are describing the situation in Afghanistan accurately, but then fail to draw the most obvious conclusion based on what they’ve just said.” (Ariana Huffington)

AFGHN-13003NF2

Panetta said less than a week ago:Our purpose, our whole mission there, is to make sure that Al Qaeda never finds another safehaven from which to attack this country. That’s the fundamental goal of why the United States is there.”

AFGHN-13058

If there are fewer than one hundred members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and if eliminating Al Qaeda is truly the main objective, the costs are staggering in human lives and in scarce dollars that we can not afford.  The U.S. has paid more than 300 billion dollars and the costs keep skyrocketing.

AFGHN-13042

General Petreus says that we will win this war, but what does winning mean?  Kandahar is still a Taliban stronghold nine years after the start of the war.  Unfortunately, there are too many questions and too few answers.

AFGHN-13008

The “Q” word – quagmire – has been mentioned a lot recently.  How much time has to elapse before we know if we are in a quagmire?  If the definition is “a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position, a predicament”  we are already in one.

AFGHN-12340

We all want Afghans to live in a peaceful society, and to be able to raise their families in security and safety.  We want Afghan children to get a proper education which will give them a future.  We want women to live without the fear which they suffered under during the Taliban years.

AFGHN-12431NF

The problem is, that it is difficult to see how adding more troops will achieve that goal.  It seems to be doing the opposite since in the last nine years more boots on the ground have not produced security for Afghans.

AFGHN-12481NF

Honor Matters

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by stevemccurry

Pashtunwali - The Code of the Pashtuns

I heard it said by a Pashtun that he has been a Pashtun for 5,000 years, a Muslim for 1430 years, and a Pakistani for 63 years.  That is the power of the Pashtun identity, one of the oldest and largest ethnic/tribal groups in the world.

AFGHN-10130

Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992. A group of Pashtun tribal nomads called Kuchis in the desert near Kandahar.

Forty million strong, Pashtuns mainly live in the Pashtun tribal belt which straddles the Afghan/Pakistan border.

AFGHN-10225

Farmer, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992

The legal and moral code by which they live,  deeply embedded in the Pashtun psyche, is the concept of Pashtunwali, the idea that honor, hospitality, revenge,  and the importance of tribe, clan, and family are paramount.

AFGHN-10157

Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002

 

AFGHN-12178

Pakistan, 1984. Afghan Pashtun Refugees

Fierce fighters, they are said to have been reluctantly admired by the British, Russians, and any other group who tried to subdue them.

AFGHN-10118

Kandahar, 1985

It is said that they are today’s Spartans in a culture that lives and breathes war and conflict.

AFGHN-10071

Kandahar, 1992

The attempt to extend the influence of a national government is antithetical to the Pashtun ways of living.  Outsiders are rejected violently if they threaten to usurp the ancient ways.

AFGHN-12092

Young girl, Ghazni, Afghanistan, 1990

In order to understand current events in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is imperative to understand the mores of this ancient tribe.

 

AFGHN-10209

Kabul, 2002

 

AFGHN-10048

Kilns firing bricks to rebuild homes, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

Cultures on the Edge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2010 by stevemccurry

Vanishing Peoples, Vanishing Livelihoods

Tightrope Walker

Rajasthan, India, 2009

_SAM2521

Tibet, 2007

Since the beginning of time, nomads have roamed the world and have been an essential part of economic and cultural activity around the globe.

SAM_1821

Tibet, 2007

South Asia has the world’s largest nomadic population. In India, there are more than 500 nomadic groups, roughly 80 million people, but every day their traditional ways of life are disappearing.

SAM_0232

Tibet, 2007

The diversity of the livelihoods of each of these nomadic communities is staggering.  Each one fills a particular socio-economic niche, fulfilling a specific need of village or sedentary communities.

Each of these groups is threatened by a variety of factors:  urban sprawl, cheaper factory goods, modern technology,  stringent wildlife laws and governmental pressure.

TIBET-10100NF3

Nomad Children, Amdo, Tibet, 2001

 

KASHMIR-10057KuchiNomad

Kuchi Shepherd, Kashmir, 1995

The Kuchis of Afghanistan have to travel long distances to avoid drought, dust storms, and wars. They are about 10% of Afghanistan’s population and are an important part of the foundation of Afghanistan’s exports of wool, carpet, and animal hides.  Because they travel to remote regions, the Kuchis have been instrumental in taking manufactured goods to remote areas, and rather than being a relic from the past, they are relevant, but drought and social pressures are impacting their way of life that has survived for centuries.

 

AFGHN-10130

Kuchi Nomads, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

The fate of all nomadic peoples is precarious, but it is vital to recognize that their way of life has served them and their regions well for centuries, and that perhaps it is worth a Herculean effort to help them survive.

AFRICA-10023NF8nomads

Tuareg Woman, Mali, 1986

My pictures of India’s nomads were published in the February issue of National Geographic Magazine:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/02/nomads/mccurry-photography

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2009 by stevemccurry
The Afghanistan Dilemma – Redux
AFGHN-10062

Dead Afghan Soldier, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992

Maybe one definition of hell is that it is the place where more effort produces fewer results. Five years ago, I could drive from Kabul over mountain passes in safety to the central highlands town of Bamiyan. Today, the only recommended way is to fly – if you can get a UN flight. Today we have many more soldiers, contractors, and NGO’S than we did five years ago, yet it is far more dangerous today than it was then. We are getting fewer results with more boots on the ground. That tells me that many do not understand the country, the history, the people, the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.

AFGHN-12460NF

As hard as outsiders have tried to “re-create” the country in their own image, Afghanistan  has been able to absorb the blows of superpowers, and remain essentially the same. The interesting thing to me is that the people trying to change it,  change more than the country does even after Herculean efforts of well-meaning governments, NGO’s, and coalitions. Look at the Soviet misadventure for evidence.

AFGHN-12760

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The Congressional Research Service recently said the United States has spent nearly $230 billion on the war in Afghanistan. That amount will jump to $300 billion once Congress has approved a military spending bill for fiscal 2010.  The question for all of us to ask is on what we are spending the money, and is it making a difference?  Do our leaders have any idea what they are trying to accomplish?  How many books have they read on Afghan history? How many officials based in Washington have stayed there more than a couple of days?

AFGHN-10007

Mujahadeen fighter takes a looter to jail. Kabul, 1992

Everyone wants Afghans to live their lives in a peaceful country where families can thrive, but our ideas to achieve that goal are often built on faulty assumptions. President Obama may be a one-term president if the war goes badly, and who will decide if and when we “win.”  The concept of winning is dangerous. Do we win, or do the Afghans win, and do they even want that victory as we define it?

AFGHN-12918

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.

AFGHN-10249

Red Cross Hospital, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

00560_01, Afghanistan, 05/1992, AFGHN-13131

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

AFGHN-12895NF

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

AFGHN-12201

Insane Asylum, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

Unpublished, Unseen

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2009 by stevemccurry

Over the past thirty years, I have taken hundreds of thousands of pictures.  Many of them have been published in my books, in magazines, and seen in my exhibitions, but a majority have never been seen.  Here are a few of those unseen pictures.

Note:  November 9 – I have added some pictures at the bottom of the Berlin Wall which came down twenty years ago today.

KASHMIR-10097

Kashmir, 1999

KASHMIR-10096

Kashmir, 1998

INDONESIA-10006

Java, 1983

BURMA-10457

Burma, 1994

00535_06

Australia, 1983

AFGHN-10121NF3

Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

AFGHN-12909UU

Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2006

AFRICA-10150

Morocco, 1988

00364_09NY

Manhattan neighborhood, 1996

00081_12NYCP

Central Park, New York, NY, 1994

00438_19_8Berlin Wall

Fall of the Berlin Wall, November, 1989

Berlin Wall1

Wall1

Wall4

00438_06Wall2

The Afghanistan Dilemma

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2009 by stevemccurry
AFGHN-10260

Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1979

 I slipped into Afghanistan across the border with Pakistan in 1979. I went with a couple of guides who did not speak English; I certainly didn’t speak Dari or Pashto so our only form of communication was improvised sign language. I was woefully unprepared. Among my belongings were a plastic cup, a Swiss Army knife, two camera bodies, four lenses, a bag of film and a few bags of airline peanuts. My naiveté was breathtaking, yet my Afghan guides protected me and treated me as their guest. That was my first experience with the legendary Afghan hospitality.

BIO-10134

Village in the Hindu Kush, 1980

I went back when the Russians invaded.   I traveled with many different mujahadeen and militia groups. We mainly traveled at night to avoid being spotted by the Soviet helicopters. Most of the time we walked, but a few times we were able to borrow horses. I was always astonished at the continual pipeline of weapons and supplies going into Afghanistan from Pakistan around the clock. Rockets, mortar rounds, ammunition, were carried in by camels, donkeys, and fighters. It was only later that we found out the staggering amount of money supplied by the U.S. to make it happen.

AFGHN-10252

Jalalabad, 1988

There was a deep camaraderie amongst the fighters who were on the greatest mission of their lives.  They weren’t looking at the calendar, waiting to go back home on R & R to see friends, family, girlfriends.  They didn’t worry much about casualty numbers. The harder the fight was, the stronger they became. Walking in the snow without boots high up in the Hindu Kush was commonplace. Those men were as tough as it gets, yet they could be gentle and tender with children.

BIO-10118

When I went back over the border into Pakistan, I had blisters, saddle sores, and filthy clothing into which I had sewn rolls of film, which were among the first images of the conflict. Over the years, I went back more than dozens of times on assignment for National Geographic, Time Magazine, ABC News, and other news outlets.  I have spent time in Afghanistan during invasions, retreats, truces, and relative peace. Almost every time I returned, the power centers had shifted. In a great game of musical chairs, elders, warlords, criminals, and mullahs’ power grows and diminishes as predictably as the phases of the moon.. Whole groups change sides when the terms are right.

AFGHN-12423ns

Ahmed Shah Massoud, 1992 

Afghans have to be versatile; they are survivors who are wily, clever, smart. They are the original survivors. They outwit, outplay, and outlast their adversaries.

AFGHN-10012

Kandahar, 1989

As much as outsiders have tried to “re-form” the country in their own image, Afghanistan  has been able to absorb the blows of superpowers, and remain essentially the same. The interesting thing to me is that the people trying to change it,  change more than the country does even after Herculean efforts of well-meaning governments, NGO’s, and coalitions. Look at the Soviet misadventure for evidence.

AFGHN-12255

Road to Kabul, 1992

Maybe one definition of hell is that is the place where more effort produces fewer results. Five years ago, I could drive from Kabul over mountain passes in safety to the central highlands town of Bamiyan. Today, the only recommended way is to fly – if you can get a flight with the United Nations Assistance Mission. Today we have many more soldiers, contractors, and NGO’S than we did five years ago, yet it is far more dangerous today than it was then. We are getting fewer results with more boots on the ground. That tells me that we do not understand the country, the people, the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.

AFGHN-12178

Chitral Valley, 1988

We are in their country, but many times we are not behaving as guests should. The recent story of the contractors responsible for the embassy security in Kabul having drunken sex orgies adds fuel to the Taliban fire. It was embarrassing to see American troops trying to do good by distributing gift to refugees during Eid, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.   Well-meaning troops  gave a trash bag full of stuffed animals to one refugee  family, when what the family needed was food and basic necessities.

AFGHN-10054

Near Pakistan border, 1984

Everyone wants Afghans to live their lives in a peaceful country where families can thrive, but our ideas to achieve that goal are often built on faulty assumptions.   The president will be damned if he agrees to send more troops, and he will be damned if he doesn’t. He may be a one-term president if the war goes badly, and who will decide if and when we “win.”  The concept of winning is dangerous. Do we win, or do the Afghans win, and do they even want that victory as we define it?  The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.

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