Photographers' Blog

Daily life in Shi’ite Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq

By Ahmed Jadallah

When people mention Sunnis and Shi’ites, the topic is often sectarian violence.

This is certainly true in Iraq. The country’s former ruler Saddam Hussain came from the Iraq’s Sunni minority, but since he was overthrown, Shi’ites have dominated Iraqi politics. Now, over the past year, Sunni insurgents who target Shi’ites have been gaining ground and violence has spiraled.

With the government battling Sunni rebels, I wanted to take a step back and show the human face of the divided communities. So in Baghdad I went to photograph daily life inside some of its poor, Shi’ite neighbourhoods.

I saw buildings crumbling, people keeping chickens in their kitchen, and children playing by an open sewer outside school. It made me sad to think that people still live this way in 2014, in a country that is now the world’s fastest-growing oil exporter.

But despite the poverty and the conflict, I met a lot of friendly, open people who were just living their lives. I saw kids playing football, men laughing together and women going to cosmetics shops in a huge slum known as Sadr City.

Witness from the Hurt Locker

May4
Photo editor May Naji during an embed with U.S. troops in Iraq.

When I moved to Singapore, I thought I would escape the war and try to forget everything that reminded me of it.

IRAQ/SCHOOLBut watching “The Hurt Locker,” I flashed back to all the sad and terrifying memories of violence and atrocities during that time in Iraq. The movie was about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, but it really highlighted what goes on in Iraq every day – what Iraqis and the U.S. military experience every day. I think that’s what made the movie so popular. People want to understand life in Iraq.

Even as an Iraqi who lived there and witnessed the war, it’s sometimes hard to describe — what happened, what we saw. The visions are in my mind, but it’s beyond the imagination of people who live in peaceful countries and never witness war. The movie’s most graphic images (planting explosives inside the body of an Iraqi boy; the civilian with a time-bomb strapped to his chest) were just some of the horrific things that happened in Iraq.

A picture is worth another thousand words…

A short while back I collated a few choice quotations and sayings on photography and the picture-taking process: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’.

I think various gems were omitted first-time round, so here are a few more:

“There are few professions where even when you are right at the top and a household name, you might still be standing on a draughty street corner with your feet getting wet and cold, waiting for something to happen.” (Philip Jones Griffiths)

rtx87y7.jpg

Above – A British Airways aircraft taxis past BA tail-fins at Heathrow Airport, west London. Photograph by Toby Melville

Five years on… Taras Protsyuk

 Grave

On Tuesday last week, family members, friends and colleagues of Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk gathered at Kiev to remember the fifth anniversay of his death in Baghdad.  After a church ceremony flowers were laid on his grave and a toast drunk to him in accordance with local custom

Gathering

Taras was killed along with Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso by an American tank shell fired at the Reuters office in the Palestine Hotel. The shell also severly injured his Reuters colleagues Samia Nakhoul, Paul Pasquale and Faleh Kheiber.

Lydia and nephew

Taras’s widow Lydia and nephew Andriy stand at his grave.

The circumstances of Taras’s death are still an issue in Ukraine and the memorial celebrations were prominently covered by local television and newspapers. 

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