DUBAI: From Baghdad to Karbala, citizens of Iraq have taken to the streets to push for a revolution. And on the frontlines of Tahrir Square capturing every moment is 23-year-old photographer Ameer Hazim.
The Baghdad native has been documenting the ongoing protests — which erupted earlier this year — via artful black-and-white portraits captured on his iPhone. “I want to show the scenes in an explicit and unfiltered way,” he said, adding that Peter Lindbergh is one of his favorite photographers (the late German photographer is renowned for his untouched black-and-white images). His main inspiration, though, is everyday life. “I want to capture and express people’s feelings through my lens,” he tells Arab News.
Since the protests began, Jasim has been unflinching in his coverage, publishing his images on Instagram — at least, he is on the days when the Internet hasn’t been cut off by the government. His photographs have been widely circulated, offering Hazim his first steps towards photojournalism.
As long as Baghdad’s Tahrir Square continues to be a focal point for the protests, that’s where you’ll find Hazim. Dozens of tents have popped up there in recent weeks, offering medical care, legal advice and supplies including blankets and food. Women stir steaming pots of rice and brew soothing cups of tea. Elsewhere, young men and women clean up the streets and crowds gather to play cards: Hazim is documenting all of this and more, including the integral but less-celebrated aspects of the unrest: for example the ubiquitous bottle of Pepsi, which many protestors are using to wash their face and eyes after exposure to tear gas. He doesn’t often photograph acts of violence, but many of his haunting shots carry a memory of them — including a man wearing an oxygen mask, crouching to take a breath after a gas bomb goes off. Since the unrest began last month, more than 260 protesters have been killed by security forces who have used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas in an effort to quell the demonstrations.
One of Hazim’s most-poignant portraits is a shot of a young boy swimming in the Tigris river. The only thing visible is his head and the Iraqi flag he’s carrying. Another widely-circulated snap features a group of teenagers in Tahrir tunnel grasping each other’s hands in unity.
“This is the first time I feel a strong sense of belonging to my country,” the photographer says of the uprising. “It’s sad to see all these people suffering and fighting for basic human rights that everyone is entitled to.”
That is one of the reasons why the young photographer has founded an online fundraiser on the American non-profit crowdfunding platform GoFundMe alongside Haneen Haidy to raise money for much-needed supplies, including helmets, food, medical care and other basic essentials. Entitled “Save the Iraqi People”, the fundraiser, created on Nov. 1, has raised nearly $2,600 from a multitude of donors at the time of writing — already surpassing its original target.
“I’m raising money to help as much as I can,” Hazim explains. “I want to do more, because we deserve better than this. We have so much creativity and potential, we just need the opportunity to live in normalcy and peace.”
Before the uprising, the 23-year-old was unknown outside of regional photography circles, but his photographs of the Iraqi revolution have propelled him into the spotlight, while underscoring the gravity of events in his homeland. Amid the mud and bullets, in Hazim’s photographs, the harsh reality of civil unrest assumes an unexpected beauty.
As for what comes next, Hazim would like his photographs to be exhibited internationally. “I want the world to know that Iraqi people are more than what they think,” he says.