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From Belfast to Baghdad, See the World’s Dividing Walls

When Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger made history by opening the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint of the Berlin Wall at 11.30 pm on November 9, 1989, without any orders, an eager young photography student named Kai Wiedenhöfer was nearly 300 miles away in the city of Essen.

At that time, the lensman was unaware that Jäger had effectively ended the separation of East and West Berlin that had existed since 1961; one that had restricted the free movement of citizens between the Soviet administered east of the city and the Allied administered west.

But that evening, one of Wiedenhöfer’s professors called with simple instructions: get to Berlin as fast as you can. The wall is coming down. This is huge: “We jumped into a car and raced all the way to Berlin,” Wiedenhöfer tells TIME. “[We] got to Potsdamer Platz at about four or five in the morning.”

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany, 1989. Kai Wiedenhšfer

Over the following days, Wiedenhöfer captured the activity as the wall was gradually dismantled. He was there when East German security guards watched crowds of East Berliners stream through to the west on foot and in their Trabants, and when West Berliners welcomed them on the other side.

But now, 25 years after the wall came down, it seems more and more separation walls are going up. The Guardian estimates that at least 6,000 miles of barriers have been built worldwide in the last decade alone. Wiedenhöfer says he sees this fact as flying in the face of globalization’s promise to remove all barriers.

So in 2003, encouraged by a colleague at a Swiss newspaper, he started photographing the walls separating Palestinian territories from Israel. Later, he visited the towering peace lines of Belfast, the monolithic edifice of the Baghdad Wall and the 22-foot high Melilla border fence (which separates the Spanish exclave from surrounding Morocco), among many others.

West Berlin, Germany, 1989. Kai Wiedenhšfer

It was a project that took seven years, and one that was sometimes fraught with difficulty. In a few locations, safety was a concern. In others, access could pose problems. Wiedenhöfer also received criticism for portraying, as some saw it, only one side of a story (by photographing, say, one side of a wall). “I have no personal involvement in these conflicts,” he explains. “For me it’s mostly to get the best angle of the barrier or the best light situations.”

It is the visual similarity of Wiedenhöfer’s work that is perhaps most striking, though. When placed beside one another, his images seem to blend into a tableau of partition and separation, in which Belfast becomes almost indistinguishable from Baghdad.

It might not be so surprising, he says, because what he found in each place was often the same: “When you build a border, or fence, the life [of the area] mostly dies down and people move away.”

“This is a phenomenon you see in every place.”


Kai Wiedenhöfer is an award-winning photographer based in Berlin. His book Confrontier is available now.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.


TIME Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams Freed from Police Custody

BRITAIN-NIRELAND-POLITICS-MURDER
Republican party Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, left, next to Sinn Fein politician and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness, talks to the media during a press conference at a hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 4, 2014 following his release from Antrim police station where he was detained for questioning over a 1972 murder. Peter Muhly—AFP/Getty Images

The 65-year-old Irish republican politician was released without charge Sunday, after being arrested Wednesday on suspicion of ordering a 1972 killing while serving as the Belfast commander in the Irish Republican Army

Updated 4:13 pm E.T.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was released without charges from police on Sunday after spending five days in custody.

Earlier in the day, the Associated Press, citing an anonymous police source, reported that the 65-year-old Irish republican politician would not face charges over a 1972 killing, but that police would send prosecutors a file of potential evidence against him.

Adams’ release was delayed by two hours due to angry loyalist protestors, who attempted to physically block his release until police officers, many of whom were clad in riot-proof gear, escorted Adams out of the building through an alternate exit.

Adams was arrested on Wednesday following allegations that he ordered the 1972 killing of a mother of 10 while serving as the Belfast commander in the Irish Republican Army. He has denied the accusations.

Adams’ detention period was due to expire Sunday. Police would have had to charge him or seek permission from a judge to extend his time in custody, as they did Friday.

According to the BBC, Sinn Fein politician and Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his party may no longer be able to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland following Adams’ time in custody.

In response, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, accused Sinn Fein of trying to blackmail the police with “republican bullyboy tactics.”

[AP]

TIME

Sinn Fein Leader Arrested for 1972 Murder

FILE - Sinn Fein Chief Gerry Adams Arrested In 1972 Murder
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams attends a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery—Getty Images

Gerry Adams, the leader of the Irish nationalist party, surrendered to authorities for questioning over his alleged role in the Irish Republican Army's abduction, murder and burial of a 37-year-old mother of 10 from Belfast more than four decades ago

Updated: Thursday, 7:03 ET

The leader of the Irish republican group Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, was placed under arrest Wednesday for suspected involvement in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, one of Northern Ireland’s “Disappeared.”

Adams denied any part in the murder before turning himself in to police in Northern Ireland.

McConville, 37, was a widowed mother of 10 when she was abducted in front of her children in Belfast by the Irish Republican Army, shot, and buried in secret after being wrongfully accused of being an informer, the BBC reports. Her body was found at a beach in County Louth in 2003 and several arrests related to her case have been made in recent months.

“While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville,” Adams said in a statement. He called her killing “a grievous injustice to her and her family.”

[BBC]

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