News / Middle East

Iraqi Kurdish Photographers Reach Out to Immigrant Workers, Refugees

Iraqi Kurdish Photographers Reach Out to Immigrant Workers, Refugeesi
X
Sebastian Meyer
June 09, 2014 7:36 PM
The recent economic boom in northern Iraq has attracted thousands of migrant workers from South Asia and Africa as well as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. A group of Iraqi Kurdish photographers, moved by their own history as refugees and emigrants, has created a photography outreach project for the Syrian refugees and foreign laborers who have recently arrived.
Sebastian Meyer
The recent economic boom in northern Iraq has attracted thousands of migrant workers from South Asia and Africa as well as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. A group of Iraqi Kurdish photographers, moved by their own history as refugees and emigrants, has created a photography outreach project for the Syrian refugees and foreign laborers who have recently arrived.
 
On a Friday afternoon in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah, Kurdish photographer Kamaran Najm is at work on a new project.  He and his colleagues are offering portraits to immigrant laborers.
 
The Kurdish region of Iraq has seen an extraordinary economic boom since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and this has led to high levels of labor immigration. The government estimates there are about 48,000 foreign workers in the Kurdish region, most of whom do poorly paid, unskilled work.

Kurds remembered

But Kurdistan was not always like this. The violence and ensuing poverty of the 1980s and 90s drove many Kurds abroad, and it’s those memories that drive this project.

“There was a time during the 1990s and early 2000 where every single Kurdish family, if not one, several members of the family was abroad mostly for working and education, so it is a part of almost every single Kurdish family they had this feeling that one of them were out," said Kamaran Najm.

For many Kurdish workers sending photographs home was a way of showing that they were alive and well, and those photographs preserve treasured memories.
 
Bnar Sardar, another photographer working on the project, was a refugee in Iran, like many Kurds in the 1990s. At that time, photographs were a luxury her family couldn't afford, something she deeply regrets.
 
“When I am in Iran I have not photographs for there. I have no photograph when I was a child there. Until now I wish I had one photo when I was there," said Sardar.

Due to a decade of relative political stability, Iraqi Kurdistan is now a sanctuary for refugees and currently hosts over 200,000 displaced Syrians.
 
Refugee portraits

Earlier this year, Kamaran and his group of photographers went to the Arbat refugee camp to make portraits for the families living there.

“We offered them a nice, clean happy family portrait. And we printed right there and we put the date in the photograph and put it in an album and gave it to them," said Najm.
 
The success of the project encouraged the group to do it again with the foreign workers, many of whom are pleased with the results.

"This is a friend of mine who doesn't live with us anymore. He’s now working in another place, but with this photo I’ll be able to see him every morning and evening," said Bangladeshi worker Islam.
 
"This is a photo all of my Nepali friends. When I go back and show this to my family, I’ll be able to show them who my friends were from my time in Iraq," said Nepali worker Sushma.

Although the photographers and their subjects are divided by culture and ethnicity, they are unified by a common experience.  Drawing on their very personal and painful past, this group of Iraqi photographers is attempting to give something back as their region becomes a home for those less fortunate.

Reporting was funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

You May Like

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid