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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs