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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs