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After the Beslan School Siege, Grief Lives On

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The ruined interior of the sports hall at School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia, where hundreds of hostages died at the climax of the school siege in September 2004. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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An Orthodox cross inside the gymnasium. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Photographs of the victims line the walls of the gym. Of the 334 hostages who died, 186 were children. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Svetlana Tsgoyeva, 69, visits the hall where her granddaughter, Zalina Albegova, 9, died in 2004. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Tsgoyeva visits Zalina’s grave at the cemetery for the siege victims on the edge of Beslan. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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A woman looks at wreaths left at the cemetery. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Tsgoyeva visits the cemetery every day. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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The Tree of Grief, a monument to the dead. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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A candleholder in front of a grave. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Tsgoyeva visits the grave of a schoolteacher who taught her granddaughter Zalina. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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These identical twins were among the victims. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Tsgoyeva visits the offices of the Beslan Mothers Committee, a group run by victims of the school siege and relatives of those who died. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Svetlana Dudiyeva, chairwoman of the Beslan Mothers Committee. She says relatives of the hostage takers should be shot as a deterrent. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Beslan has a sizeable minority of Ossetian Muslims and its mosque--built in 1847--was recently refurbished. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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Inside the mosque. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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North Ossetia’s Orthodox Christian and Muslim communities have lived in harmony in recent times. Here, the imam of Beslan’s mosque talks to a visiting reporter, a Christian. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

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The Beslan Mothers Committee has asked the mosque not to amplify the call to prayer. “How can we have people in our town crying Allahu akbar, when that’s what the boyeviki [militant fighters] shouted over our dying children?” says Svetlana Tsgoyeva. Image by Tom Parfitt, North Ossetia, Russia, 2011.

North Ossetia is a mainly Christian Orthodox republic at the center of the North Caucasus region of Russia. Sadly, it is best known for the Beslan hostage siege in September 2004, when a team of 32 Islamist militants took 1,100 pupils, teachers and parents hostage at the town’s School Number One. The siege ended in two explosions, a fire and a gunfight which left almost 400 people dead. Today, the memory of the siege has barely faded in Beslan, and the terrible events of almost seven years ago remain an engine of grief, fear and prejudice.

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