Amro Hamzawi is an award-winning photographer. His latest project—capturing images of the civilian cost of the war—is called “Iraqis Today, Testimonies” and he’s placed a preview gallery on his web site . These images portray the suffering, harrassment, and torture endured by Iraqi families as they wait out the war between U.S. forces and the various insurgent groups.
Here’s how Hamzawi introduces “Iraqis Today, Testimonies.”
Ordinary Iraqis are the first victims of the Iraq War, yet there is barely any mention in the media today of the cruel toll the conflict has taken on them. It is difficult to give a precise estimate of the number of civilians who perished or were injured as a result of the invasion, but by all accounts the conditions on the ground are a humanitarian disaster with the civilians caught in the line of fire between the occupation forces, the militias that have taken over the country and the various insurgent groups. Sectarian violence is widespread, with continuous human rights violations and war crimes on all sides.
With its infrastructure destroyed and its resources pillaged, Iraq has become a shadow of itself. There are some 2 million Iraqi refugees outside the country—mainly in Syria and Jordan—and around 2.4 million others internally displaced. According to a UNHCR-commissioned survey conducted in 2008, depression and anxiety are highly prevalent among Iraqi refugees due to terrors endured before they fled. 77% of those interviewed reported having been affected by air bombardments and shelling or rocket attacks, 68% said they had experienced iterrofation or harassment by militias or other groups, including receiving death threats, and 16% said they had been tortured.
At a time when there is much debate about the success of “the surge” in the context of the U.S. Presidential election, it is good to remember that there can be no such thing as success when the human cost is so high and the moral failure so obvious. The following testimonies from Iraqi refugees are undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg, but they give an idea of the scope of the catastrophe.
I’ve included, with permission, some images from Hamzawi’s preview gallery. For the full gallery, visit http://amrohamzawi.com/ .
Zaid N. from Baghdad, age 16, says that on April 23, 2008, a group of U.S. soldiers knocked at his door and asked to search his home. He says he told them to wait because his sisters were unveiled, without being provoked, one of the U.S. soldiers grabbed him and kicked him. As a result, Zaid fell through the stairway from the second floor of the building and broke his back. He now suffers from total paraplegia.
In December 2006, while the father was at work, [a] family from Baquba had its house searched by a team of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi militiamen hunting down insurgents. According to the mother, the men immediately started breaking things and being violent with the children. They then took her and her 16-year-old daughter (Maha) to another room and two men, a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi militiaman, raped the girl in front of her. The men took the 16-year-old girl with them when they left. To this day, Maha is still missing.