Can you imagine being confined for over four years to a place whose perimeter you could walk in less than 30 minutes?
A fenced enclosure, the Bajad Kandala displacement camp has limited entry and exit points ... so when this little lady opted to cut loose for a bit I could hardly blame her. As I watched her run off I found myself thinking how rarely I recognized the privilege of my own freedom.
In just the past week Iraq has shared with me much of its pain as well as much of its beauty. I’ve been welcomed into the lives of many and been witness to examples of hope and resilience by those who’ve suffered immensely. As I welcome in the new year (my first new year here ) I’m reminded that it’s a privilege to be a witness—I’m grateful for this life and wish for little more than to continue on this path. .
The best is yet to come, folks. Peace and love from Iraq 🇮🇶 ❤️ ✌️
Dusk falls following the Yazidi wedding of Amera and Samir outside the Bajad Kandala displacement camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Several hundred from the Yazidi community turned out for an afternoon and evening of celebration — after which they returned to their tents. All are displaced Yazidis from Sinjar and have been living in the camp since the August 2014 ISIS siege that left thousands dead, thousands captured and that still today leaves tens of thousands unable to return to their homes.
One of the many consequences of displacement—whether it be because of conflict, poverty, environmental, political or otherwise—is the disruption of education for children and young adults alike. While in Mosul last year I remember meeting young adults, similar in age to myself, who had no choice but to abandon their studies when ISIS took hold of the city.
For the Yazidis displaced from Sinjar in August 2014 the story is similar — despite efforts from (some) NGOs and individual volunteers, education halted as people were forced to flee and has yet to resume the regularity or attendance that existed in Sinjar. in the Bajad Kandala camp in Iraqi Kurdistan one school operates and the majority of educational efforts are being made by volunteers—other displaced Yazidis living with the camp.
A Yazidi elder observes the wedding ceremony of Amera and Samir, a young Yazidi couple married yesterday just outside the Bajad Kandala displacement camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Both the bride and groom—as well as the several hundred from the Yazidi community that attended— have lived in the camp since he 2014 ISIS siege on Sinjar.
Day II /
Beginning with an attack by the Islamic State in Sinjar on August 3, 2014 (an attack that lasted for days before US airstrikes and local forces provided aid) human rights organizations estimate that between 2,000 and 5,500 Yazidi people have been killed, and over 7,000 have been kidnapped, It is likely these numbers are much higher, given the uncertainty in estimating casualties in areas previously occupied by ISIS.
It’s a cold, rainy first night in the Bajed Kandala 2 camp for displaced Yazidis. Of the nearly 200,000 Yazidis still displaced four years after the ISIS seige on Sinjar, approximately 15,000 call the Bajed Kandala camps home. I’ll be here for the next 2 weeks teaching, photographing and just spending time ... please consider following along.
Wednesday, June 20th, was a long day and night for the family of Antwon Rose Jr. and those protesting his death at the hands of police the night before. Following a noon demonstration in downtown Pittsburgh protestors reconvened at the East Pittsburgh Police Station before moving to the Pittsburgh I-376 Parkway around 9PM. Traffic was blocked in both directions for several hours until Pennsylvania State riot police arrived shortly after 2AM to disperse the crowd. One arrest was made when Ciora Thomas, President of sisTers PGH, stood her ground and refused to leave the roadway.
Antwon Rose Jr., 17, was riding in a vehicle that had been pulled over because officers suspected it had been used in a shooting that had occurred minutes earlier.
A cell phone video of the event shows Rose and another young man running from the vehicle and an officer firing multiple times.
Rose was unarmed when he was shot by an East Pittsburgh police officer. Rose was hit by three bullets, transported to McKeesport Hospital and pronounced dead at 9:19pm.
Since his death protests have been held throughout the city of Pittsburgh. These images are from the first day and night of protests. Antwon Rose Jr. was laid to rest Monday evening; no protests were held on Monday out of respect for the family, but they are expected to resume Tuesday.
The shooting remains under investigation. No charges have been filed against Officer Michael Rosfeld, 30, who has been on administrative leave since shooting Rose. In the coming days, District Attorney Stephen Zappala is expected to make an announcement about whether the East Pittsburgh police officer will be charged.
and then there is oregon...in many ways, oregon stole my heart. this is, at least in part, because i did not expect the beauty that awaited me as i left portland and began my drive south. we often hear about how gorgeous the pacific coast highway is (and it is certainly something to experience in your life), but i do not think we hear often enough about the 101 -- a stretch of road that stretches from the washington state line to the california border weaving in and out of small towns, with vast stretches of road that hug the coastline. another one for your bucket list, folks.
i was trying to think of something particularly insightful to write about what it is like to sit in complete darkness and observe the night sky ... and then i remembered that years ago calvin & hobbes said it as well as i ever could: " if people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, i bet they'd live a lot differently. when you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day." (calvin & hobbes spitting the hard truth). .
this photo was taken last week, shortly after midnight on my 30th birthday. i have never been one confident in dabbling with a tripod, but after setting up my tent i got it out and a random passerby spent an hour and taught me how to capture the night sky. the roadtrip trip, ultimately just shy of three weeks in length, was full of these types of fortuitous encounters that led me into conversations and down paths that i could not have planned or anticipated. joshua tree national park 12:17 am 08.19.2017
anyone that knows me well knows that im not exactly what one might describe as a morning person. drawn to the silence, solitude, and mystery of the night i don't often find myself (getting) up at 5am. this day was different though; in glacier national park, i had plans to hike about 20 miles and to make it to one of the many peaks that gives the intrepid hiker a view of the parks' glaciers. .
i had met some fellow travelers in missoula the day before and we found ourselves together again at the ranger station early that morning -- one of the many things i love about traveling in a free and fluid way is how similarly minded people tend to find one another again and again. .
as they waited for their permits i stole away and sat on the banks of the water, watching the sun begin to rise behind the mountains, over the water. i maintain that there are few things like watching the sun rise or set that help to set or correct the tone of the day.
the redwoods are as magical as people say that they are. after driving the near 18 hours from glacier national park the previous day, i woke, having pitched my tent about a mile from the entrance to the park -- i knew that i wanted to get in at first light. having arrived late the previous night, the trees still shrouded in darkness, i really didn't know what to expect. the morning was damp and the combination of sunlight and mist had traffic driving at 5 mph as everyone tried, impossibly, to take it all in.
the sun burned off the mist within the hour, but those first moments remained with me for the next 12 hours as i hiked and sat among those giant majestic beauties.
as mentioned in my previous post, i recently returned from a several week road trip in which i camped and hiked my way through many of our nations national parks. i am no landscape photographer, but i want to share some of what i saw over the course of those few weeks. my hope is that each of you makes or takes the time to see these places for yourself. in almost every instance, i found that a photograph did not do what i saw justice… the reason? the reason is that though the photo may visually show what was before my eyes, it is absent the feeling of wonder and awe that is felt when we recognize the beauty of the natural world.
late friday night, august 19th, i brought in my 30th birthday at joshua tree national park. as the clock ticked midnight i was on top of an enormous boulder, staring up at the night sky, so dark that the milky way seemed to be within reach.
i slept out under the stars that night and woke thankful to be 30. over the course of the past two weeks, ive covered 7451 miles of road stretching from pittsburgh to the west coast.
i saw the badlands, jumped from a cliff in the grand tetons, hiked nearly 20 miles to sit on top of a mountain in glacier national park, drove the back roads of countless small towns, saw the beauty of mount rainier and crater national and stood in awe at the vastness of yosemite.
i got a tattoo in venice beach, watched the sun set into the pacific ocean, drove the 101 down the oregon coast and spent 12 hours alone with the giant redwoods. along the way, i have been touched by fortuitous encounters with strangers that led me down paths that i could not have previously planned or imagined. i saw a few old friends and made just as many new ones; for all of this, i am grateful.
it is hard to articulate what this type of trip does for the mind, body and soul, but there is something about unfettered, solo travel that is both cleansing and renewing.
i drove 20 hours yesterday arriving back to pittsburgh at 5 in the morning exhausted, sunburned but feeling lighter than when i had left. over the next week or so ill be taking a break from sharing the type of work that i usually do to share some images from the past few weeks, many taken in our countries, treasured national parks. this photos is an image of my campsite at joshua tree taken that night, shortly after midnight.
sisters sara and adela are among an estimated 800,000 displaced moslawis; they fled their neighborhood with their mother and father and had been living in the camp for three weeks when I met them in june 2017
hasansham camp for the internally displaced. june 2017. though the city of mosul has been "officially" liberated an estimated 800,000 people remain displaced as reconstruction efforts, estimated to cost billions and take decades, begin.
sama, age 12, of west mosul hopes to return home so that she can go back to school. it's been over three years since she has been in a proper classroom -- while under isis control schools in mosul were either shutdown or the curriculum was drastically changed to indoctrinate students.
inside the hasansham camp for internally displaced persons. june 2017.
an injured iraqi soldier is helped into a makeshift clinic. west mosul, june 2017.
civilians and a few isof soldiers take a moments break in a pool hall in a liberated neighborhood of west mosul.
less than 2km from the contact line and less than 2km from where civilians were trapped within mosuls old city, life had started to return to some semblance of normalcy. june 2017.