MESOP TODAYS FOCAL POINT : A Map of Displacement / Internally displaced populations

Metrography . iraq . 14 April 2015 – An in depth, visual investigation into the lives of internally displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan

The country of Iraq has fallen into chaos. Society is disintegrating with no sign of let-up. As the violence spreads, civilians become caught into the crossfire irrespective of religious or ethnic differences. These men, women, and children are the real victims of this underreported, intractable conflict. Iraq is now contending with one of the largest internally displaced populations (IDP) in the world, with over two million people having been displaced since January this year.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), a region of 4.5 million inhabitants, is alone host to more than 1.200.000 IDPs. It is a human catastrophe of biblical proportions and it is therefore mandatory to document in depth significant and representative stories to create an undeniable record of the situation, and use them to stir public opinion and generate direct relief actions. The objective of the project is to create a unique visual map of the Iraqi IDP emergency in KRI (and at its borders) through the production of a series of compelling, comprehensive, in depth photo stories from the governorates of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, Duhok and Kirkuk.

The approach will be entirely unique as it will be led by Iraqi-Kurdish photographers, both male and female, who were themselves refugees in the 1980s and 1990s. They will go beyond the surface of crisis reporting, concentrating on the more profound aspects of people’s lives. The project will focus on personal stories and use raw testimony to create a historical landscape of what is happening on the ground in this war-torn country.

The project entails the production of 15 visual stories (five of which have already been produced) based on photography and other kinds of images (video, drawings, old photos, infographics and maps) that explore the IDP emergency in KRI. These stories will be published on a range of different platforms, both traditional and experimental; these may include, but are not limited to: a dedicated website, printed local and international media, digital media outlets (online newspapers, slideshows, photography blogs), international festivals.

The main goal is to create an online digital platform that will host the material produced, organize it on a map and function as a source of information for other media organisations and the general public. Furthermore each story (where possible) will be linked to humanitarian organizations working in the field. The website will offer extensive information on the role of such organizations, showing the needs of the people whose stories are told in the images, as well as offering to the public the possibility of participating through direct donations to each organization. The budget that we are seeking to raise will be used to support our photographers and writers through the production of in-depth photo stories, with a small stipend to cover their expenses plus fair compensation.

Part of the money will also cover Metrography’s effort in coordinating and producing such projects, as well as covering part of the expenses for web development, design and curation of the exhibition, website and book.

Risks and Challenges

The main risks involved with the project are the dangers linked to working in – or close to – conflict zones. Furthermore it is extremely difficult to document this exodus accurately: access to people’s stories is hard to gain due to fear of retaliation, lack of trust in the media and difficulties in finding the families once that they enter the KRI territory. Metrography can gain unprecedented access, thanks to the fact that the photographers are all local. Furthermore most of the photographers have been refugees themselves (during the Anfal campaign and the civil war in the late 80’s and early 90’s most of the Iraqi Kurdish people have been displaced), and therefore have unprecedented understanding of the conditions of the displaced.