“I went to the House of God and returned,
Yet I found nothing like my home” – Iraqi Proverb
Nothing Like My Home captures the physical and emotional wounds inflicted upon a cross section of individual Iraqis and families by the ongoing war in Iraq.
While the United States has resettled 43,000 Iraqis, there are still millions of Iraqi civilians who remain uprooted and desperate.
According to Human Rights First, "many cases of those who are awaiting resettlement have gotten stuck in the system – even fallen through the cracks. These at-risk Iraqis must put their lives on hold, and their vulnerabilities only increase with the passage of time."
With U.S. attention shifting away from Iraq, many Iraqis fear that they will be forgotten. Yet even eight years after the war began, its consequences are still felt acutely by hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis. The United States must recommit itself both to ensuring adequate funding for assistance programs in the region, and to maintaining support for resettlement as a durable solution for the most vulnerable refugees.
When the Iraq War began, I was just completing a fifteen-year project on veterans around the world: Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict. As I flew to Bahrain (on assignment to photograph the war wounded) and boarded a hospital ship filled with victims from the first days of the war, the past suddenly became present. Survivors were experiencing many of the same aftershocks I’d seen in older conflicts, often the result of a schism between private trauma and public denial.
This schism is not limited to veterans. Today, the Iraq War has sparked one of the greatest exoduses in the history of the Middle East, turning over four million people into refugees. They are not in tented camps, easily seen. But they have endured dislocation, forced inactivity, pain, and the scars of memory. To get out alive, they have abandoned livelihoods and possessions. Families have been broken, separated by thousands of miles. Some, unable to flee the violence quickly enough, also became its victims.
In 2006, unable to find support from mainstream media to document the Iraqi exiles’ plight, I approached the Open Society Institute and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma for support. In April and September 2007, I traveled to Amman, Jordan for two stories, the first about Iraqis refugees (Life Interrupted: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis), the latter about exiled Iraqi doctors working for Medicins Sans Frontieres (for the Dart Society). Then in December 2007, I began to document family members of Iraqis I met in Amman who had found asylum or been resettled in the US.
With photographs and video interviews Nothing Like My Home aims to demonstrate the toll of the war through these survivors’ faces, bodies, and everyday lives. Rather than photographing refugees en masse to illustrate the epic size of the exodus (according to the UN, over 4.5 million have fled), it follows, in an intimate way, a diverse group of families and individuals whose stories represents millions
As more Iraqis are resettled, and their children begin attending school, there is a pressing need to change the perception of “Iraqi as the Enemy”. By sharing their post-war experiences as they struggle to find new ways to live with the wounds of war, viewers can learn about the true cost of conflict, its effects on a population, and come to understand more about their own relationship to conflict.
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