The future of Iraq
By Shannon Stapleton
When asked, “What do you see for the future of Iraq now that the United States military is leaving the country ?”, 12-year-old student Kharar Haider replied, “I don’t think we will have more problems and it is better than when Saddam was here. We have no heating or light in school. I don’t think that is going to get better.”
Upon arriving in Baghdad on Dec. 1st of 2011 for my first time in Iraq, the question that I couldn’t get out of my mind as we made our way through a maze of military checkpoints was “What will be the future of Iraq after we leave?” If security was this tense now, I could not imagine what was going to happen after the U.S. troops finally pulled out of this war-torn country.
Thoughts of a new sectarian war among the various factions involved in a power struggle over the government dominated my outlook on the future of Iraq. The threat of suicide bombings, mortar attacks or kidnappings for Iraq’s people created a sense of paranoia that I couldn’t possibly imagine living with on a daily basis. I was eventually going to be leaving the country on a military embed. The Iraqis who told me about their hopes for the future would stay behind.
When asked, “What do you see for the future of Iraq now that the United States military is leaving the country?”, fishmonger Saad Moslem replied, “Iraq is more stable now. I hope everything is going to be fine. All depends on God. In my neighborhood there is no electricity, no water. We have to buy water to drink. Hopefully nothing will happen.”
So I decided in my daily work to ask that same question of the people who were going to be part of this moment in history:
“What will be the future of Iraq after the Americans leave?”
I decided to do a series of portraits, all shot in the same format with a Canon Mark II 5D and a 50 mm lens all shot at 3.5 vertical head to toe. To be honest, I had never worked that way. Usually on assignments, I am chasing the light or working on composition or specific moments. This was different. The subjects spoke for themselves. I met a fishmonger, a little boy in his soccer uniform, two mothers, a garbage truck driver, a security guard, a retired teacher, a local photojournalist and others to complete my series of ten people.
Eighteen-year-old mother Roaua Mansour said, “I was just a young girl when the Americans came. I used to walk with the U.S. soldiers and take pictures with them and they talked with me. They gave me pencils, and school books. I hope things get better but security is still the main problem here.”
There were various answers to the question. Like any question there are always different ideas and thoughts. But most were apprehensive, unsure of their country’s future after nearly nine years of American military presence. I leave on December 14th for an embed with the military with hopes of making it home by December 20th to be with my family.
I can’t think of a better word than the one I learned here in Iraq to answer the question “What will be the future of Iraq after we leave?” and my getting home for the holidays. Inshallah!