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January 15, 2008

The Forgotten Iraqi Exiles

Gri Amer Post-Surgerylr 070

“The war in Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands, and caused the one of the greatest flights of people in the history of the Middle East. Sixty thousand people flee their homes each month.

But when they are reported on at all, they are seldom individualized. Rather than photographing hundreds of Iraqi refugees to illustrate the epic size of the exodus, I want to follow, for an extended period and in an intimate way, just a few – I want to take the journey with them, to live the aftermath of war with them, and to relate their experiences as if it were happening to me, to understand the experiences that drove them into exile, where they are often viewed with suspicion and even as the enemy.”

–Photojournalist Lori Grinker

In response to an inattentive domestic media and the lack of visual documentation, Lori Grinker has been pursuing the story of Iraqi civilians fleeing the war.

In April, and again in September 2007, she traveled to Amman to photograph Iraqis forced to leave their families, homes and livelihoods for a life of cramped, substandard living conditions, inactivity, and waiting for the time when it will be safe to return to Iraq, or hear that they have found sanctuary in another country. And those are the “lucky” ones. Many of her subjects are in Amman to repair their bodies, only to be to be repatriated to a war zone after they are “healed.”

In the case above, the young man (call him Amer) was burned in an explosion while walking past a fuel truck in Baghdad.  We see the 16-year old coming out of the recovery room after having surgery to fix the contracted fingers on his right hand. He faced the same surgery on his left hand a couple of month later.

For the past two years Amer’s father has taken him to Egypt to treat his burns, then to Iran and he is currently in Jordan where he is having surgery on his hands with  MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) at the Red Crescent Hospital in Amman.

In collaboration with Lori, well known for her documentation of the effects of war, the goal of this site is to bring this situation to a larger, concerned audience.  Moreover, it is an opportunity to throw more light on the moral failure of the United States in failing to humanely and adequate assist the exiles, especially those who have worked directly for the U.S. occupation.

Since fiscal year 2007, only 1,608 of a promised 7,000 refugees were admitted into the U.S. The government has now set a goal of bringing in 12,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008, with an additional 5,000 visas to be granted among the more than 100,000 Iraqis employed by the U.S. or U.S. Government contractors. Although the plan passed Congress, however, it has yet to be signed into law.

Over the coming months, The BAG plan’s to apply the immediacy and the serialized nature of the blog medium to visually pursue this subject, as well as to personally follow the odyssey of specific refugees in the process of creating a new life.

Gri Amer Films Lori Lr0709

In the meantime, when asked how he is treated by friends and acquaintances in Iraq, Amer said that everyone is nice to him…there are so many wounded people in the streets, it’s normal now.

It is fitting, given the invisibility of this issue, that Amer trains his camera on us.

Lori Grinker website

Afterwar: Veterans From A World In Conflict.  Photographs and Interviews: Lori Grinker

(images: © Lori Grinker.  Amman, Jordan.  2007.  Used by permission)

About the Photographer

BagNews

  • gasho

    Thank you, Bag, for all you do. And thanks to Lori Grinker for representing this radically undermentioned group.
    The two pictures in conjunction tell so many stories. The boy is a victim of Iraqi violence, let loose by George Bush’s Middle East Adventure. The first image is a sad and painful picture, no doubt. As terrible as it is, however, it’s also a picture of someone being helped – as rare as that might be. The boy IS getting surgery. In the second image, with a smile behind a very up-to-date looking video camera, he is connected with the modern west through technology and a human connection in Lori. He’s suffered and is suffering, I’m sure. But he’s at least not forgotten. I’m aware that he’s the exception, and that that is why this post exists at all… but it is a glimpse of hope to see even a little evidence of help.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~sfs73/index.htm MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “The Forgotten Iraqi Exiles
    What, pray tell, BAGman ~ do you (and Ms. Grinker) see in these images that is in any way:
    Iraqi ?
    (why not Palestinians? or, for that matter: Native ______ the brown-skinned victims of any colonialist pogrom.)
    ref : “Grinker has been pursuing the story of Iraqi civilians fleeing the war…
    …and in that regard, imho, given these images: Grinker has entirely failed.

  • David

    As deplorable as George Bush’s inattention to the plight of the ongoing and extensive Iraqi humanitarian disaster, he is not ordering U.S. troops to commit random acts of violence against the civilian population. The boy in the picture is a victim of Middle Eastern violence, largely fueled by terrorists, feudal lords, and pompous autocrats; this violence did not begin with George W. Bush and will undoubtably outlast his shameful tenure as president.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RubDMC/ RubDMC

    Thanks for these images, Lori and Michael; and for pursuing the story.
    As for the politically-toned comments above, I say ‘bullshit.’

  • chris

    “…he is not ordering U.S. troops to commit random acts of violence against the civilian population…” but they are there, on his orders, doing just that more often than is conscionable, and getting away with it.
    You claim this boy’s a victim of Middle Eastern Violence (TM) but have no proof of this. Many civilians caught by roadside bombs, etc. are the collateral damage of insurgents targeting US and Governement troops. Last I heard, 75% of insurgent attacks were targeting military targets.
    The US recently dropped 40,000 lbs of explosives on a region that had been held up in the weeks before as an Awakening Council success story. This was a deliberate, not random, act of violence on a massive scale that could not have failed to ensnare civilian victims.
    Excess civilian deaths since our illegal invasion have reached at least 150,000 (directly attributable to violence with 150,000 more from disease,etc.) and more likely have killed over a million Iraqis. Add to this the millions of displaced and frightfully injured. Consider that possibly exaggerated estimates of Saddam’s victims top out at 300,000 or so. It took him four decades to amass that body count. We’ve only been there for what, five years?

  • lytom

    His spirit is beautiful. That he can smile, I admire. He was born in Iraq, he could not leave. His suffering is indictment of the US and the world, who stand by and let the occupation go on and on. The enemy is us!

  • bert

    It is so easy to put such violences on the shoulders of iraqis themselves, or middle east people. When polish people were killed by polish collaborators in WW2, I suppose you’d have said that they were victims of polish violence…
    The facts are that the US went in Iraq as aggressors, since not a single threat came from Iraq. Bush father and son are both criminals in that matter, since the father destroyed Iraqi civilians facilities and killed scores of civilians back in 1991 (it was the liberation of Kuwait, so why bombing civilian infrastructure in the north of Iraq?), and the son decided to invade Iraq without being attacked, that is to say, a war of aggression.
    Only a trial could lead to justice, the same justice the US want for everyone, except for themselves.
    What is amazing is the fact that you americans are ready to accept every horrendous things coming from your own people, because “the reasons are good”…You kill, illegally detain, torture, destroy, lie, “for the good”…
    I hope one day we’ll see a Nuremberg trial with Bush and Blair like Goering and friends.
    But for sure that will be “revenge”, and not justice, uh?

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