"We are neighbors with Iraq from this moment on." . -President Barzani in Erbil on the eve of Kurdistan's referendum vote.
Kurdish man watches through a heavily guarded gate anticipating the arrival of President Masoud Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan's KDP leader since 2005, at the pro-independence rally last week in Soran, Iraq.
One more full day until Kurdistan's vote to negotiate independence from Iraq. And although a resounding "yes" is forecasted, with the KDP's Barzani leading the charge, no one knows exactly what Tuesday and the months thereafter hold for the country and her neighbors. . The delegation says a vote "yes" is merely to begin dialogue with Baghdad; but Baghdad has made clear they see Monday's ballot "unconstitutional." The international community, including the U.S, fear Kurdistan may not only hurl herself in the throes of civil war, but quicken the "countermeasures" Turkey and Iran say they're prepared to take. Further, all of this would, no doubt, impede the ongoing fight against ISIS... . Anyway, we're all hoping for mere shortage of gasoline at worst--milk at best. That would make for an unfortunate bowl of morning cornflakes, but at least no one would be running for their lives [again]...
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I went from taking photos to sitting next to President Barzani of Kurdistan and Mayor Kak Krmanj of Soran for a photo-op overlooking what had to be 5,000 people. What is my life?! . Anyway, the President is making his rounds for pro-independence rallies leading up to next week's referendum vote on the 25th. This evening Soran hosted her own at the University’s stadium, and it was one heck of a bash! . Baghdad and neighbors countries, like Iran and Turkey, largely oppose the referendum. The US and other Western allies fear disunity in the region will undermine the fight against ISIS and ignite further conflict. They argue (mainly) that, perhaps, now is not the time. Pro-referendum Kurds maintain the stance that now is as good a time as ever—after all, when is it “appropriate" to resist and hold your own? Could it be that Kurdistan, more than any other nation, has waited long enough? . #bijikurdistan #everydaymiddleeast #iraq
What a privilege to photograph this piece in @graziauk about the incredible women taking part in the Sewing Sisters Project—an initiative started by @tabanshoresh, which helps Yazidi women who’ve lost everything remake their lives through sewing skills. . This is why I do it, guys—why I love the camera and the power she has to tell of people and places most folks in the world might have otherwise never known—or seen—without words and pictures. I’m grateful to be in this part of the world today so I can meet women like these. I’m further grateful for the privilege it was to photograph them and to be let into their lives last month at the Rwanga Community Camp in Qadiya, Iraq. . WHAT brave women—not only for the way they have, and are, persevering despite profound loss, war, and even slavery; but also for the way they bravely stood before my lens—after all that—to let someone perhaps on other side of the world know them and understand them. . Beautiful words by @itsmeannasilverman . Check out @thelotusf Donate to @kindlyworld to supporting these amazing ladies. . #kindlywomen #livekindly#yazidi #yezidis #women #sewingsisters #refugees @llianabird, @wonderlandcomms
I'll be 32 in a few hours—a new month for us all, and a new year for me. Day one. . "I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now." . I didn't write that, but I read it. How true it is—yes, EVEN when things don't go the way we pray... Can I say that?! . Anyway, life's wild and so sweet. . Goodnight. See you at 32. 👊🏻 .
Soon after this photo, the fella on the far right donned his Spider Man costume—hooded mask and all. Unfortunately, we discovered one terribly unzippable back zipper when he went to shed the suit. After several long minutes of unsuccessful yanking—and slight panic—I decidedly broke the thing by force. . All that to say, the boy was neither bothered by the "crisis" nor by his confinement. Perhaps he was happy as Spider Man—or perhaps he, better than me, has learned patience when things don't go his way... . Further, the boy was no less settled after learning about the busted zipper on his now unwearable suit. . I expect we all have a thing or two to learn from him. I sure do... . #yazidi #refugee #iraq
This'll probably keep gettin' you into trouble as much as it does me: . “There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.” ― G.K. Chesterton . Then again, itn't sometimes just what we need?
Here’s a little bread baking spot at dusk a few days ago. . Itn’t it somethin’ to think about that the very best bread is always the fresh bread—yesterday’s ol’ stuff won’t do. And everyday we get a new sunrise, and different sunset. We get to to start over, and then get ready to start over again. . I'm glad it's just one day at a time, one loaf at a time, one step at a time.
The past weeks friends and I have been discussing the subject of suffering—both ours, the world’s, and Kurdistan's. Then the other day I came across especially relevant words that my mama must've read to me as a child in her lap like the little one in the photo, as it was a favorite story of mine: . “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand." -The Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit . That got me thinking’ hard about the bizarre picture in Lewis’ The Great Divorce about folks showin' up in heaven. At first they're like balloons—expanded in size, but empty with air—weightless “ghosts,” he says, who fail but to bend the blades of grass so sharp like needles beneath they’re feet. They’ve ever only thought their world as the real one, while heaven the ethereal—some less substantial place. . Backwards they’ve had it all the while—perhaps I do, too. It is heaven that is reality itself, and earth her shadow. To enjoy the pleasures of that place necessitates becoming not less solid like a floating soul, but more, further substantial…Real. . And it is by way of suffering, the Skin Horse claims, that one becomes Real. Maybe it weans us off that backwards thinking, the one-dimensional notion of this world, and readies us to perhaps one day dance effortlessly the grass that heaven grows. . #learning
Luckily I had my camera with me that night. Tim, Karwan, and I had gone to revisit some families from Aleppo living in shanties around Soran. I wasn't expecting to photograph anyone, really—perhaps an exterior shot or two of their "homes" on the way out, which is exactly what I got. Plus, even if I did photograph them, I'd wind up with startled portraits, or, at best, some uncomfortable look my way—useless deliverables, and an untrue window into their lives. None of us have time for that. . At any rate, Tim or Karwan got a call from someone at the Rawandz refugee village with the news that two Yazidi families were packing up and heading back to Shingal..."now"—as in, "Now, sorry, you're gonna miss 'em." . We, of course, headed to Rwandz anyway. I don't know if the families hung around and waited for us or not, but we didn't miss 'em. It was pretty emotional—for Tim more than for me or Karwan, as he's been friends with them a few years and helped them find a safe haven here. . Anyway, it was sundown; the light turned pink; and luckily I had my camera with me that night. . @therefugeinitiative @timothykbuxton
This morning in Soran we celebrated because friend got hitched. . Forgive me, I know this is shy a pretty bride and a groom—but, oh my word, this is so utterly Kurdistan. . #everydayiraq #everydaymiddleeast
What an honor to have met and photographed the women at this salon. Please take a moment to read My-Ngoc To's important piece in @guardian behind two Vietnamese women who persevered despite loss and war so many years ago, and you’ll immediately understand why. . “Phụng was 17 when she fled Vietnam. She left with her older sister in the middle of the night in a small fishing boat with 70 other people. Once they reached the deep ocean, everyone rejoiced that they were not caught by the communists, or worse, by pirates. . A few hours later, though, the blackness of the sea and the sky weighed on their spirits..." . Link in profile
These ladies in Soran city gather weekly for English class. Man, it was somethin’ else being in that room! . I was all over the place photographing. A hand full of them did look at me and smile momentarily while a recorded British lady articulately explained supermarket shopping over a speaker. But they were too focused jotting notes and repeating words that I’m certain I could have done song and dance and no one of them would have batted an eye. Gratitude was obvious by their eagerness to learn. . I was humbled and honored to be with them—and further humbled and honored that they would allow me to photograph them. . Community Center built by @therefugeinitiaitve
Part II? ha. Another from the river swim at the gorge last week. . It's hot. But so damn pretty. . #everydayiraq #everydaymiddleeast
It’s the holidays here. Eid al-Fitr feasting began this past Saturday night to end the month of Ramadan fasting. The days following, folks were all gussied up for house-hopping as friends and family dropped by for sweets, sodas, and these squatty little peaches I can’t seem to get enough of (AND don’t know why in God’s good name we don’t have ‘em back home…in my Georgia Peach State). . Anyway, most everybody has taken the whole week off from work, as have I—not by choice, but good for the soul. . We spent the 110 degree afternoon a few days ago swimming the chilly waters that split the Rawandiz Gorge. It was mostly fellas, in mostly skivvies, which was mostly funny—because I was mostly in jeans and long sleeves. That, too, was not by choice, but (I’m learning) also good for the soul—for reasons perhaps you and I could discuss another time. . Anyway, Happy Holidays y’all. Jazhntan Piroz Bet! 🕌 . #everydayiraq #everydaymiddleeast #jazhntan #eidmubarak
Yazidi men from Shingal last Monday night at a small refugee village in Kawlokan built by The Refuge Initiative. . #everydayrefugees #everydayiraq #everydaymiddleeast
There were 17 of the them Thursday afternoon—all women. And then that night the men came together in that same room; there were 21 of them. They gathered to celebrate their graduation from @tutapona a’s trauma counseling program. . Together the families live at @a21's small village for refugees in Soran, Iraq. . "We used to look back and think about all the things that we had lost,” one woman explained, "but now we have hope for our futures…” . Heavens, I have much to learn from them. . #communitiesofhope @therefugeinitiative
At the end of 2015, the UN’s refugee agency reported that the number of displaced people, asylum-seekers, and those uprooted within their own country totaled 65.3 million people globally–one out of every 113 people on earth, compared to 59.5 million people only one year prior. Adrian Edwards for UNHCR says, “It is the first time in the organization’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed”–reaching its largest figure since World War II, roughly equal to the population of the United Kingdom. . And although the 20th of June has been marked to commemorate refugees for 66 years, it is perhaps this June more than any before that we ought not only give our attention to refugees or share our public support, but to also act—however much or however little we are able. It may mean countless pots of chai on the floor till a wounded soul is completely heard, never mind the awkwardness; perhaps it is to live small and give much; or perhaps it is to pray your guts out, if you’re the prayin’ kind. . At any rate, the enormity of today's crisis, so unlike any other time in history, makes today a momentous day for the world. . So to those of you who've made your new home back in Georgia—indeed, you all have everything to do with the road I'm on today here in Iraq. I love and miss you dearly. Not a day passes I don't think of you with gratitude for what you taught me about restoration, family, and how to deal with savage rodents and lousy landlords. And to the millions who have, and are, preserving all over the world despite loss and war: I’m only one gal, but know that I am with you, for you, and unreservedly proud of you. . #WithRefugees #WorldRefugeeDay
In thinking about these refugee families from Shingal, G.K. Chesterton knew what he was talking about when he said, "I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.” . Yes, what a difficult thing that is for impatient people (who isn’t impatient?)—we have no time for sagas and mishaps. Long stories don’t suit anyone’s schedule. . But maybe that’s not so with God and us. Yes, our long stories are His—and our burdens are His. And for that reason, perhaps that reason alone, "We men and women are all in the same boat,” as Chesterton remarked elsewhere, “upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty." . *Photos from English class at @therefugeinitiative Rwanduz Village yesterday afternoon.