Changing Planet

Exile Voices and Nature in the Camp

By: Kira Sadler, based on a photo gallery by Reza Visual Academy published on Voices for Biodiversity

Photo by © Nalin Bashar, 10 years old when the photography workshop was launched. Syrian Refugee Camp, Kawergosk, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Most of us can’t even fathom the realities of being exiled from our home country, let alone the experience of living in a refugee camp. In such a precarious situation, considering nature and other species seems unlikely at best. However improbable, Reza Visual Academy began a project called Exile Voices in December 2013, teaching 20 young Syrian refugees the art of photography. One of their assignments tasking them with finding “Nature in the Camp.”

In January 2018, photos from the “Nature in the Camp” project were published by Voices for Biodiversity. All the photos were taken by 10- to 15-year-old Syrian residents of the Kawergosk Refugee Camp, and offer unique insights into life and nature inside a refugee camp.

Kawergosk Camp is in northern Iraq, near the cities of Mosul and Erbil, in an area known as Iraqi Kurdistan and is home to 7,951 people who have been displaced from their homes in Syria. As war continues to rage in their home country, residents are not likely to be returning home soon.

These young people’s photographs, explains Reza Visual Academy, “present some of the rare bits of greenery that can be found in the camp, from an old man looking after his garden to a young boy watering plants near the temporary housing provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”

Reza Visual Academy was founded by photojournalist, philanthropist and National Geographic photographer Reza. Since 1983, Reza has volunteered his time teaching youth and women in conflict areas about photography, in the hopes of helping them realize better lives. Reza provides cameras and guidance to young refugees, encouraging them to “look at things while discovering the dramatic impact that images can have… [and] to use photography to tell a story about their lives, their dreams and their sorrows.”

Photo (right) by © Solin Qasem, 14 years old when the photography workshop was launched. Syrian Refugee Camp, Kawergosk, Iraqi Kurdistan.

An online magazine connecting humans with the natural world to help all species survive and thrive together. Voices for Biodiversity shares the stories of eco-reporters from around the world, using the ancient human art of storytelling to connect people with each other, other species, and the natural world. Our goal is to connect the human animal with the global ecosystem.

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