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.
This little one stands atop some craggy bricks yet to be laid at the new @lovedoes Village for 20 Syrian refugee families. It’s right next to @therefugeinitiative Azadi Village where she and her family moved the day it opened last April. . You see, Azadi Village is home to both Yazidis and Muslim Kurds—groups historically considered to be too different, and far too much at odds, to ever live side-by-side. But after nearly three years sleeping in makeshift dwellings on the outskirts of Soran city, both groups are now quite grateful to band together as a community who escaped the horrors of their homelands. They now live with new hope, new kinship, and a new beginning—as one. . What a sight it will be after the Syrian families settle in next door and join this unimaginable medley of people. My word, could it be that those who meant to destroy them have instead brought to pass what is unfolding today: life? . #communitiesofhope @therefugeinitiative
It’s human. Something within us is moved deeply by accounts and tales of people who choose to die so that others don’t have to. It matters not what part of God’s green earth you find yourself, nor whom you find yourself with—it is so. Because we all know the tension of gratitude, heroism, and heartbreak when one lays down his life for his friends. . This morning was a sure reminder of that tension—and a sure reminder that there is no greater love than this. . Hundreds gathered in Soran for the opening of a memorial dedicated to the Peshmerga military who have died so that others don’t have to. There were photographs of men and women, young and old, pinned to nearly every inch of that four corner room—a sobering indication that the battle in Mosul, and in the region, continues to rage on day after day… . How moving it was. And how right and good it is to be here with these people—learning from them and walking with them in a world that is simply not as it ought to be. . @therefugeinitiative
It’s a difficult thing for us all to feel at home with people different from ourselves—and further unthinkable to bear hug them while sobbing. Perhaps it’s one’s kooky religious persuasion that you could do without, or one’s take on fixin' eggs or even fixin’ the world and all her bloodshed—or maybe it’s just one’s maddening pronunciation of the word “envelope” that makes you come unglued. . But these two gentleman—one Shia Muslim from Mosul, and the other a Yazidi from Shingal—have wrecked my notion of what is possible when it comes to two groups expected to hate one another. . You see, both men are family leaders; both men have lived through the horrors of ISIS ransacking their homes and snatching loved ones out from under them. Surely, it is because of this that they have carried one another, fought for one another, and stood together like brothers who lived side-by-side for nearly two years at @therefugeinitiative Kawlokan Village. . Last week Abu Raeed from Mosul took his family home to rebuild and start anew. Sahdo Alias, the Yazidi man with the red scarf, waited nearby the morning they left until only the two of them remained. . And this...? . This was their goodbye—for now. . Indeed, friends, there is hope for this land. And it is good. . #communitiesofhope . . For more, follow @therefugeinitiative
Frederick Douglass is an American hero of mine on multiple fronts–education being one of them. He was a self-taught runaway slave who secretly taught other slaves to read–making them fit to forge passes into free states, as the illiterate were vulnerable to capture. . Decades after Douglass' 1838 escape, he became one of the most prolific writers, orators, and intellectuals of his day, advising presidents and lecturing thousands both at home and as a diplomat. It was he who held the highest appointed public post in Washington. It was he who became the first African American citizen nominated for Vice Presidency. And it was he who was the most prominent abolitionist and civil rights advocate in American history. . His education was the means to his own freedom–and later, the freedom of 3 million enslaved people through his paramount role in Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. . That being said, I'm glad for this little school in Soran for refugees–the most vulnerable children in the region. . It is worth considering who among the children uprooted today by war are the next national leaders, thinkers, doctors, scientists, and great poets...the Frederick-Douglass-types. Perhaps it is they who are most equipped to lead and influence us all, not in spite of their current circumstance, but because of it. . “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass . . . @therefugeinitiative #comminitesofhope
I so enjoyed shooting this piece for @guardian a few days before I headed to Iraq. Oh, how I love this quirky Georgia town brimming with refugees! And Katy Long absolutely nailed it with the writing--and she was such a pleasure to work with. Read it, folks! #onassignment . *Link on profile* . This small town in America's Deep South welcomes 1,500 refugees a year
It was usually cool and quiet, aside from the hum of the trucks and discussions about tying down the last box, bit, pot, or pan atop piles of pillows, baskets, and blankets ready to flap in the wind as the trucks went west. The little ones—scrubbed down and spruced up—were lively and ready, bunched in backseats beneath boxfuls of baggage with breakfast bread in hand. . Some of them hadn’t seen Mosul since August 2014 when they received a tipoff that ISIS was en route. They'd fled east to Soran—and made it out two hours shy of ISIS’s arrival. . They’re Shabak Kurds of the Shiite faith, and they had no place to go, no friends to fall back on, and certainly no confidence in what lie ahead. . So by September, Mayor Krmanj of Soran gave tents and land to The Refuge Initiative. It took one week to get a small camp up and running where these 20 families were given hope and refuge. They became part of something no one saw coming—not even The Refuge Initiative. . It was chapter one—the first of four small camps built by The Refuge Initiative. For two years, eight months, and 15 days or so, they lived in Soran. But just after 5 am yesterday, they headed back to Mosul. . To leave is to finally be going home and rightfully retrieving that which has been stolen. But it is also to realize utterly all that will never be given back; it is to say goodbye yet again and start anew. Everyone knew that yesterday—you could feel it in your gut and see it in their eyes. It seemed even the wind worried and hoped, worried and hoped. . So most everyone stayed busy. But others—well, they wept. . Yet it was right and good, and actually beautiful. They're finally home…where they ought to be. . . . @therefugeinitiative
She’s still quite a “looker”—every bit as much as I recall last I saw her. Forgive me (some of you) for not dropping a note sooner—you know who you are, and you know you are important to me. . I’ll tell you, yesterday @rescueiraq took a few of us up Bradost Mountain and then down into the Barzan Valley. Thankfully this afternoon the saffron haze of dust hanging cleared into sunny blue skies—but yesterday it made for quite a sight atop the mountain with the glinting river in the valley beneath. Don't ya think? . Anyhow, I'm happy to report that despite leaving ill, I somehow managed to make it across the ocean and a few seas uneventfully and, surprisingly, rather pleasantly. I suppose it was God’s own doing. Yes? . Well, blessings to all "behind me" here and now. Today I am well, and rested, and grateful—for this, and for you. . -J
There is entirely to much to be said about the girl with fringed handlebars; but it’s more than worth your to read to know that those aren’t just any handlebars. . At one point Joanna had no fringes. Truth be told, she also had no bike. For four whole years she and her brother had neither friends nor school. They had no freedom go outside the apartment and play after she and her family fled to Turkey from Aleppo—they weren’t welcome there as Kurds from Syria. . None of that is true since they moved to Clarkston, Georgia a little over a year and a half ago. . All that to say, I have never met anyone more grateful for fringes...and for the way the wind blows through your hair when you peddle real fast or fly down a hill and just let go. . My goodness, isn’t that good?
#Repost @viewfind ・・・ Follow @missjessieparks | A Truly American Friendship . The hardliners of our political landscape today leave many imagining that a mythical influx of refugees from the war-torn Middle East will flood the United States and introduce critical consequences. How can they possible integrate? What dangers do they pose? . Atlanta-based photojournalist Jessie Parks challenges that tired stereotype by exploring how a burgeoning friendship between two families — one Syrian, the other American — reminds us of America’s defining characteristics: openness, diversity and a stubbornly persistent desire to improve. . #enrich #culture #friendship #religion #refugee
Just wanted the IG peoples to know that this sweet baby boy was born this week--and I'm one proud aunt! Maverick Glenn, a whopping 10lbs, 20.4", came Tuesday, April 11th. WHAT A GIFT--love him so! 💛👶🏼 #mavvyg #babyboy
In the summer of 2015 John moved to Clarkson, Georgia from Aleppo—Madelyn moved from south Georgia. From strangers to neighbors, to homework help and grocery runs—the two families became dear friends. . I had the privilege (to say the least) of spending a few weeks getting to know them and photographing their friendship. . And, oh, how sweet it is. . This, ladies and gentlemen, is #America at her ✨finest.✨
Lalish is the holy heartland of the Yazidi people, tucked in the valleys of the Nineveh Province of Iraqi Kurdistan. The nice folks there walk around shoeless, kissin' door frames, walls, and the ground here and there. They never step on, but always over, the thresholds of all the temple doorways—and asked that we do the same. . This was inside the Lalish temple. The ‘stached gentleman looking my way works for Baba Sheikh—the spiritual leader of the Yazidi people, akin to the Catholic's Pope. . "Stache" didn't speak much English, but stayed within spittin’ distance—watchfully somber and, I guess, curious about us and the boo-coos of photos I was taking. . The temple was dark and difficult to photograph. So as soon as I spotted the glory of God’s daylight bathing an opening in the wall, I pranced my little ambitious tail over to it and confidently planted not one—but two—bare feet right atop the doorway's threshold; a threshold that, perhaps, not a single soul had tread upon in a thousand years or so. . Smooth, Jessie. Smooth. . About the time the camera met my eye, ‘Stache (and everyone else) started hollering some Kurmanji-something about gettin’ my damnable feet the heck off that holy ground. I flailed in fear like a fish on a hook. What a terrible thing I had done! . After gaining composure, I glanced at “Stache”—certain an arrest was soon to follow. But, I kid you not, he stood there chuckling! . From then on he was astoundingly more approachable. He even came over and suggested I get a photo of myself, and offered his services. How very thoughtful! I eagerly handed off my camera...hoping it might atone for my “little” doorway mishap. . Anyway, I'm still terribly sorry for what I did. But, ya know, maybe seeing me misstep and make a fool of myself was wonderfully ordinary; thus, wonderfully kindred—wonderfully human. Which, perhaps, then made me wonderfully approachable—a thing of grace more effective than my most perfectly penned words or planned presentations. . Maybe we all need a little more brazen honesty about our missteps, for others—and for ourselves (if we're honest). Don't ya think?
Tim and Billy's friend, @wreya_omer, handed me his iPhone with an English instructional video on the ins and outs of prayer: what time it should begin and what one ought to be thinking (or not thinking) about when it does; to remember where to focus the eyes, put the hands, and place the feet; when to bend the body and the angle it ought to be bent at; and, of course, to double check a compass and be sure one’s aimed at Mecca. Details, details, details. . I was impressed. . I thought if I ever gave it a whirl, God would surely be blown away!—not because of my flawless execution, but because of utter disappointment. I told Wreya that in this case God might not ever hear the prayers of ol’ clumsy and forgetful me! He laughed. . Then his little sister whisked me upstairs to her closet after the Maghrib sunset prayer here in the backyard. She carefully sorted out a suitable dress color for my complexion and pinned my hair up at her vanity into a tall bun beneath a hijab. It felt more like childhood dress up to me—but she and the other girls beamed and said wide-eyed that I looked better than I ever had before. . I laughed because, honestly, I felt sillier than ever had before. . Wreya drove me and his sister to the mosque so I could take photos of Isha prayer after dark. . (May 2016)
Joanna is a Syrian Kurd—been here about 19 months. And those American girls on either side of her are Maddie and Hannah, her two best friends. In recent weeks I've gone to ballet lessons, impromptu bike rides, and Stone Mountain park with them. I’ve heard the stories of their families over countless cups of strong black tea—and made it hopelessly impossible for myself not to love them dearly. I’ve been documenting their wonderfully uncommon friendship with my camera, and regularly adding to the bottom of a seemingly interminable Word document. . I haven’t a clue where it will all end up, nor do I much care. I just know it needs to be done—if only to teach me what I’ve yet to learn. . But if I may, can I share this bit from a recorded conversation last week with Joanna’s mom, Araz? And if it suits you, would you mind doing as she asks? . "Good gracious, the world is not right," I said after she relived their escape from Aleppo to Istanbul, "It’s not right that we get to live here in so much….Most Americans...they don’t understand—I don’t even understand what you have seen with your eyes… And...in America you can go your whole day and not think or know anything about what’s going on in Syria, ya know? Everything is blue skies and fine… [But] you—you have seen what [you ran] from." She nodded to agree, so I asked, "If you could say something to Americans…what would you say to them? What would you say they can do?" . She looked at me as if it shouldn’t have been a question and replied confidently, “Pray."
Dear friends, not to by any means make light of Friday's political happenings and your reasonable conclusion on one side or the other, or to curtail your righteous anger or proud "whoo-rah" for the prez... . But could it be that maybe—just maybe—the recent "upheaval" is a necessary (perhaps, then, GOOD—can I say that??) fire under all our hind ends to take action? And I don’t just mean action like powerful poster protests, social media weigh in's, or healthy debates around the kitchen table—but to do what has been your responsibility all along? Perhaps channel all that passion and time given to participate and drive to and from public demonstrations or debates to instead go and care for the sojourners TODAY: feed them, invite them in, *listen* to them, clothe them, and look after them. Imagine how different the world would be if each of us—YOU—did all you're able with your five loaves and two fish. . #Atlanta, message me. I can connect you to plenty of refugees who are feeling very vulnerable and fearful in the wake of all this—they need you. Please make them the priority. (Also, odds are they’ll feed YOU a FEAST! Ha!) . If you're not in Atlanta, see link in my profile for a list of refugee aid organizations possibly near you. . Nate Bramsen said it beautifully: "Do we actually care more about refugees (and each other) or just about making a raucous? . If you are aching, as I am, GO TO THEM!... . Hundreds of refugees STILL come into the USA daily. When was the last time you invited a refugee INTO your home for a home-cooked meal? How many refugees' phone numbers do you have in your contacts? How much does YOUR lifestyle CHANGE because you ache for refugees to be well cared for and compassionately loved? When did you last offer to tutor a refugee in English? . Have we become a nation where carrying a sign is noble, but caring for your neighbor is virtually unheard of? What changes opinions more effectively? Protests insulting leadership or people demonstrating sacrificial love? Are we ready to live loud lives of love? . Change doesn't start in the White House. It starts in my house."
Yesterday on International Holocaust Remembrance Day President #Trump signed an executive memorandum in an effort to grant Christian refugees and others from minority religions priority over Muslim refugees entering the United States by temporarily banning the entry of ALL Libyans, Somalians, Yemenis, Sudanese, Iraqis, and Iranis—even families on airplanes en route to America while the order was being signed. Further, Syrians were singled out as, "detrimental to the interests of the United States," and blocked from entry indefinitely. . That is a sizable portion of region far too many brethren before us have assiduously pleaded before God to open doors to, that they might share together with those people that which we cannot lose. And today they are coming to us in droves! Yet we have instead sought to keep safe for ourselves that which we will all one day lose—and close the doors. . I am with you, #America; I want to be wise and keep my family safe. But this? This? . Dear me, our brothers and sisters are surely rolling in their graves. . . . . . . #wewelcomerefugees #refugeecrisis #kurdistan #iraqikurdistan #everydaymiddleeast #everydayiraq #soran #refugeecrisis #documentary #burnmagazine #photojournalism #reportagespotlight #yourshotphotographer #lensculture #natgeo #refugees