Sixty two years ago in Karen State, Burma, the Karen people were forced into a David and Goliath conflict against the powerful authoritarian Burmese military regime who have tried to push the Karen people off the map through a brutal and systematic policy of murder, rape, forced labor and the complete destruction of their villages. Six decades on, and now considered the world’s longest current running conflict, the Karen people continue to be brutalized in an ongoing pursuit to cleanse them from their homeland they call Kawtoolie.
Working on assignment in Karen State in 2010 I was enamored by the calm resilience of the Karen people, both volunteer soldiers and civilians who all seem to possess a quiet determination backed up by their motto ‘never surrender’. Moved by the stoic and yet serene nature of Karen and horrified with their stories of the human rights violations against them, I decided to return in February 2011, self-funded, to bring the face of the Karen people, and their highly under-reported struggle to survive against the brutal Burmese junta to a greater audience in the hope of affecting some positive change.
Jason Florio is a NYC based photographer who seeks to create a conduit between cultures and societies by stripping down the seeming boundaries of language, religion and ideologies and to help show the commonalities that we share.