Kirkuk

The city of Kirkuk in the North of Iraq lays right at the border between the autonomous Kurdish region and federal Iraq; not only that, but the city also sits on the biggest oil reservoir of the country, and it is therefore at the centre of attention of other countries outside of Iraq, namely Iran and Turkey.

Following the independence referendum held in three governorates of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the Iraqi army backed by Iranian military forces and Shia militia have regained controlled of the city after driving Kurdish Peshmergas out of its perimeter in yet another confrontation over the so called disputed areas.

But how is it to live in Kirkuk?

When people step out of their houses in Kirkuk they tell their loved ones: “I hope to see you again” – there’s no guarantee they will make it back. I was born in Kirkuk, a city of northern Iraq where Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians and foreign workers used to live together.

Back in the day, Saddam Hussein initiated several campaigns to ‘Arabise’ Kirkuk, evicting Kurdish families and giving their homes over to families from the south of Iraq. But when the US-led invasion of 2003 reached my hometown, Kurdish forces worked to reverse this process. The city fell within the so-called disputed areas; responsibility for administration and security was shared between Baghdad and the Kurdish authorities.

The security situation has been bad since 2003, but it took a turn for the worst with the war against ISIS. The economy went down, there were less jobs, people only bought the bare necessities. Arabs are suspicious of the Turkmen and Peshmergas and the other way around.

Photographing Kirkuk is difficult for many reasons. Most of the time, officials don’t understand what I’m doing, or don’t trust that I am journalist. People don’t want to be photographed because of security reasons. I also fear for my personal safety: journalists are big targets for terrorists and militias. Every character in my photo stories has a different story, a different religion, a different language. They are all important to me. These people used to live together, marry each other.

Now, nobody trusts each other.

What I find the most interesting is that people don’t leave Kirkuk. I met a woman who told me she lost her only son in an explosion. She hopes for better times but still won’t leave. Through my photographs, I want to show the world how it is to live here. I try to see the beautiful side of Kirkuk and how strong its people are, how easily they can adapt. People have always found new way of living their lives, constantly aware of the war and that everything can change at any moment.

 

04/10/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Baba GurGur is a large oil field and gas flame near the city of Kirkuk which was the first to be discovered in Northern Iraq in 1927. The field is 40 meters in diameter and has been burning for 2,500 years.
27/01/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Abdullah Hazbar from out side of the tent. Abdulla was wounded by Iraqi air planes bombing when he left their village with his family to Qratapa in the same time he lost 3 brothers and 1 sister. He can still touch to the some peace of the bomb inside his skin.
21/07/2015 -- Kirkuk-Iraq, Iraq -- Kids are scare when Iraqi police interred their house to looking for ISIS fighters in the middle of night in the city of Kirkuk.
24/10/2015 -- Kirkuk-Iraq, Iraq -- A family in their bedroom when police interred their house to looking for ISIS members in Chardakhlo village in south of Kirkuk.
10/09/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. Hewar Faris training as a actor on the stage. Hewar Faris doing football and she is also actor even at this moment the station of Kirkuk not good.
25/10/2015 -- Kirkuk-Iraq, Iraq -- An ISIS suspect with hand cuffs at the police base when he arrested during the raid in Chardakhlo village in south of Kirkuk.
02/04/2016 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- The Metal band make a video clip for their Song (Nation of dogs) Dark Phantom is the only Metal band in Iraq. They based in Kirkuk and the members are Kurds, Arab, Turkmen.
15/10/2017 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Civilians next to a picture of EX president of Iraq "Talabani" hold guns to protect their home from Iraqi forces before the fight started between Iraqi forces and Peshmerga in Kirkuk.
16/01/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Kurdish Peshmerga holding their position in Kirkuk.
16/01/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Volunteer fighter wounded after his car hit by RFG from Iraqi forces inside the city of Kirkuk.
04/06/2016 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Dark Phantom is the only Metal band in Iraq play music at the cultural cafe in Kirkuk. They based in Kirkuk and the members are Kurds, Arab, Turkmen.
27/10/2016 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Nazhad Ahmed, A peshmerga officer from Kirkuk got killed on 21th October after approximately 100 ISIS fighters sneaked to the city and ends with intensive clash between the local forces and the fighters. His family visit his grave and kurdish flag on his grave marks his identity as kurdish as most of the kurdish people from Kirkuk are more tied to Kurdish identity than the Iraqi side.
31/03/2016 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- The Kurdish wedding.
23/06/14 , Kirkuk, Iraq -- Two Iraqi men waiting to play pool inside a billiard room in Eskan, North-East Kirkuk.
25/06/14, Kirkuk, Iraq -- A boy looks inside a destroyed car at the site of a suicide bombing in Kirkuk which killed 5 people and wounded other 19 just half an hour earlier. Rahimawa neighborhood is a Kurdish area in the North of Kirkuk.
24/06/14 Kirkuk, Iraq -- A man sleeping on the side of the road in order to avoid long queues in the morning at the petrol station close by. In the back his car, among others, already queued up for the morning. For the past two weeks fuel has been running low in Kirkuk and it has been rationed. Drivers are allowed to withdraw 30 liters at a petrol station every other day depending on the number their car license plate ends with. While prices at petrol stations are still the same (450 Iraqi Dinars per liter) smugglers are now selling fuel for a much higher price (up to 2000 a liter and more).
22/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. A Sunni refugee family from Mosul shelter underneath a hoarding advertising sweets in Kirkuk, Iraq. The family left all of their possessions behind in Mosul when they fled to escape bombing by the Iraqi Air Force.
23/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. A member of the Kurdish peshmerga patrols along the walls of the Kirkuk Citadel in Iraq.
23/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. A bird seller displays his wares inside the Kirkuk Bazaar in Kirkuk, Iraq.
23/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. A portrait of a Kurdish gun smuggler taken in the Gun Market in the Kirkuk Bazaar, Iraq.
24/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. a portrait of Father Slewa, a catholic priest at the Maryam Athera Church in the Shatrlo neighborhood of Kirkuk, Iraq.
24/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. Sunni residents of Kirkuk pray during Ramadan at the Takia Talibani Mosque in Kirkuk, Iraq.
29/07/2014. Kirkuk, Iraq. Kirkuk residents are seen on an amusement park ride at the Baba Gorgor Park in Kirkuk, Iraq.
25/09/2014 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Hewar cleans the living room in the house where she lives with her family in the early morning. Hewar Faris, 22 year old from Kirkuk, is the goalkeeper of the female football team Solav, as well as being an actress in a mixed theatre company.
15/01/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Mahmud Hazbar was wounded by Iraqi planes' bombing when he was with his family on the way to Qratapa, after leaving their village. At the same time he lost three brothers and one sister.
20/01/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Omer helps his father when he distributes kerosene to IDP's at Laylan IDP camp, south of Kirkuk. His father is originally from Sudan but has came to Iraq as a refugee 14 years ago. On September 12th, when the Iraqi army started air strikes over the province, they left and sought refugee in Kirkuk.
22/01/2015 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- A view of Laylan IDP camp at night. Laylan camp is 20 KM south of Kirkuk. UNHCR and the municipality of Kirkuk built the camp with around 1500 tents. Around 8450 people live in the camp.
04/03/15 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- A waitress working in Bab Alhara cafe, the only cafe where girls are allowed to work. Komari street, Kirkuk.
10/10/2014 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- A portrait of Bangladeshi worker in his bedroom during the two hours break they have in the afternoon.
28/06/2014 -- Kirkuk, Iraq -- Peshmerga sleep outside at Maktabi Khalid Peshmerga base on the outskirts of Kirkuk. Peshmerga are the Kurdish military forces. Those based at Maktabi Khalid play both support and combat roles in the conflict with Sunni militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, who recently took all but 50km of the territory that borders the semi-autonomous region of Iraq Kurdistan.