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Tara Sosrowardoyo
Cut Syamsurniati, Lhok Seumawe, North Aceh, 2003

Because of the nature of her work – providing assistance and counselling to torture and abuse victims and their families in Aceh – Cut Syamsurniati is widely perceived as a rebel sympathizer. In the strife-torn and military-riddled territory, one would think that would be tantamount to wearing a bull's-eye on your chest. So, it amazed me to see how confidently and unselfconsciously she moved about while I meekly followed her around.

I photographed Cut in the burnt-out shell of a vocational school – one of many heart-wrenching sites in Lhok Seumawe, North Aceh – amidst a demolished training kitchen, a foyer and stacks of pilfered and soiled graduate diplomas. Cut Syamsurniati was chosen as one of Asia's Heroes of 2002 by an international news magazine. A distinction she truly deserves.