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Tibet, Lhasa

Tibet. The roof of the world. With its average elevation of 4900 meters and its isolated location it still remains a mystical realm. I traveled to this astonishing country by train from Beijing. Which is officially the capital of Tibet. Because Tibet is Chinese. The only problem is that the Tibetans don't really see it that way.

What defines a country?

Again I stumble upon a 'country' that's not really a country. Or is it? What defines a country? In my opinion Tibet is still a country, if not an invaded one. Since 1950 Tibet is officially part of China. The "Seventeen point agreement" was signed but obviously Tibet had no choice other than being faced with the massive Red Army. So basically Tibet was annexed over a 700 year old claim. I think you should ask the people what they want. But that's my democratic background I guess.

I know that most Tibetans by far want their country back. I have spoken with many of them. Old and young. In the meantime China has become so powerful that almost no one dares to oppose it. Even my Prime Minister did not meet the Dalai Lama when he visited Holland in June of 2009. Of course the economic relations with China were at stake. So I suppose if one's big enough one can steal a country and get away with it. As long as economics decide, this will always keep happening.

Since the occupation more than one million Tibetans have died fighting, mostly non-violently, for their country and religion. For their freedom. At Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama, I saw large groups of Chinese tourists making photos with peace signs. I wondered if they even realized what had happened there. In Chinese schools they learn about "The Liberation of Tibet".

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In the project "Streets of the World", photographer Jeroen Swolfs captures street life in all 205 of the world's capitals. Differences are visible immediately: differences in people, environments, cultures and circumstances. The consequences of wars, natural disasters, and famine are contrasted with luxury, pragmatism, warmth and security. An important similarity captured in each urban image is the portrayal of everyday life. Life abounds everywhere with all its resilience, hope, friendship and perseverance. This is a photography project that not only distinguishes itself in scale, but also through the realistic vision of the photographer and his eye for the global citizen.
Jeroen Swolfs
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