Sunday, August 24, 2014

Humans of New York photographer shows the human side of Iraq (23 Pics)

“She speaks more languages than anyone in the family. Because she plays with all the children in the street.” (Erbil, Iraq)
“My happiest moments are whenever I see my mother happy.”
“What’s the happiest you’ve ever seen her?”
“When I was a child, some German doctors told us that I could have a surgery in Italy, and my legs would work again. She was so happy she started crying. But I never had the money to go.” (Erbil, Iraq)
“I photoshopped my head onto a healthy body, to see what I would look like.” (Erbil, Iraq)
“They are taking control of the water supply. They are breaking dams, and flooding crops, and destroying the food supply of an entire country. They are forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes. It seems that there is a hand behind all of this. They are very calculating. They are making their moves very carefully to destroy the human soul. They want to rob an entire people of food and water and homes, as if to wipe them from the pages of history. And when they take the homes from these people, the children have no place to play. The children have no place to be young. No physical space, and no emotional space. They have no place to be a child, so their only frame of reference is war and fighting. And when that’s all they know, how can they grow up to be doctors and teachers? All they can possibly know is the desire for revenge and hatred for their enemies. I wish people would understand that Iraq is filled with intelligent, civilized people. This was the cradle of civilization in the Ancient World. Even the Garden of Eden was here. These aren’t dust covered, nameless refugees being forced from their homes. The refugee camps are filled with architects, and musicians, and teachers.”
These children are members of Iraq's Yazidi minority, who are one of many minorities deemed expendable by ISIS militants. In the last few days, ISIS has moved into their villages and taken their homes. Tens of thousands of the villagers fled into a nearby range of mountains. Realizing this, ISIS circled the mountains with guns, blocked all the roads, and waited for them to die of thirst in the 120 degree heat. These children belonged to some of the families lucky enough to escape. While their parents were panicking about their relatives trapped in the mountains, these kids found a quiet place to play. I found them banging on some cans. I asked them what they were doing. "We're building a car," they said.
"Isn't that cute," I thought. "They're imagining the cans are cars."

When I came back 5 minutes later, they had punctured holes in all four cans. Using two metal wires as axles, they turned the cans into wheels, and attached them to the plastic crate lying nearby. They'd built a car. (Dohuk, Iraq)
"There were dozens of them and only four of us. They took all my sheep." (Dohuk, Iraq)
"I would give my soul if I could fix her brain." (Dohuk, Iraq)
I normally go into my conversations with a set of proven questions to ask, that I find will elicit a wide variety of anecdotes from people's lives: happiest moment, saddest moment, things like that. But with people fleeing war, it is absolutely impossible to discuss anything beyond the present moment. Their circumstances are so overpowering, there is absolutely zero room in their minds for any other thoughts. The conversation immediately stalls, because any topic of conversation beyond their present despair seems grossly inappropriate. You realize that without physical security, no other layers of the human experience can exist. "All day they do is cry for home," she told me. (Dohuk, Iraq)
"We told her to sit with us so we could share her sadness." (Dohuk, Iraq)
“I worry about the day they start to want things that I can’t afford.” (Shaqlawa, Iraq)
Today in microfashion…. (Shaqlawa, Iraq)
"Swimming is the greatest thing in life. If we have time, we swim ten times per day." (Kalak, Iraq)
“I was the strongest young man in my town. They called me Bulldozer.” (Shaqlawa, Iraq)
“My parents were captured when I was sixteen. They both died in prison.”
“What do you remember about the day they were taken?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this. Can we stop?”
(Shaqlawa, Iraq)
“We live in a very conservative culture, but I want my children to be open minded. I try to bring them to as many places as possible: big malls, art galleries, concerts. We want them to see as many types of people as possible, and as many types of ideas as possible.” (Erbil, Iraq)
“I had a mobile phone and computer store back in Syria. It was completely looted during the fighting. I came here to find work, but I couldn’t afford to bring my family with me. When I left, I kissed my son and told him that I was leaving and I didn’t know where I was going. He was crying so hard that we had to lock him in the house as I said ‘goodbye’ to my wife. I haven’t even met my second son.”
“What are your happiest memories of your son?”
“Every time I went to work, he’d run after me. And every time I came home, he’d run to me.” (Erbil, Iraq)
“What do you guys want to do when you grow up?”
“What’s your greatest struggle right now?”

(Erbil, Iraq)
"I'm a student. My parents didn't want me sitting around the house all summer, so they made me be a shepherd." (Kalak, Iraq)

"She always dreams about the bombs." (Erbil, Iraq)
"We just want to be together and not be afraid." (Erbil, Iraq)
"I was going to one of my first exams, and suddenly there was a bombing. In downtown Damascus! I couldn't believe it! I didn't think this was possible. Windows were broken everywhere, and there were people on the ground, and the sounds of ambulances. Then over the next few weeks, everything changed. The taxis in the streets were replaced by tanks. You no longer knew who was your friend and who was your enemy. Suddenly you could be killed, and nobody would ask why. Before war, you have rights. People will ask why you were killed. When war comes, nobody asks why you were killed anymore." (Erbil, Iraq)
“I’m living a good life. I’m a business owner. A lot of hotels say, ‘Come shine shoes for us. We will pay you better.’ I tell them: ‘Why would I do that? I am free.’” (Shaqlawa, Iraq)

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