I have always been curious about life in Iraq, because we never see images of normal life there. I think it’s dehumanizing to Iraqis that we only see war and terrorism on TV, and losing our empathetic view of them as humans gives politicians free play to do whatever they want there, ignoring any human consequences. So journalist Paulien Bakker and I went to Iraq and asked people the question: How are you after all these years? We talked to barbers and brides, teenage girls and heads of schools. Instead of discussing the pain and horrors some had been through, we focused on their daily—yes, normal—life. We found that there is no difference between these people and us, except that they have to live in a country that has become a toy in world politics, while we live in safe countries where we can develop ourselves in a peaceful environment. But the people in this series have just as little to do with politics as you and me. We all have just one life.
* * *
Liked this story? Our editors did too, voting it one of our 20 best untold tales!
Marieke van der Velden is a photographer based in Amsterdam, but her workspace is the world. Organizations and NGOs have sent her abroad many times to photograph their projects and campaigns, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. Her work includes portrait series, landscape series and photo essays in which both come together.