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Alumna, Faculty Member Tells the Stories of Iraqi Refugees Through Photographs

Additional stories & images from Gabriela Bulisova's '05 photo documentary project

Posted 01.01.12 by MICA communications

Gabriela Bulisova, "The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States," 2009-2011.

"A single refugee is a tragedy. Over four million refugees is a statistic," said photography alumna and faculty member Gabriela Bulisova '05. Bulisova has been documenting the struggle of Iraqis forced to flee their homes because of the violence resulting from the War in Iraq that began in 2003. "These photographs are intended to puncture the statistics and reveal human beings," she said.

(above image) Three generations of Iraqi women--a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter--were violently separated and forced to flee to three different countries. Now, after three years of experiences none of them want to recall, they are finally living together as new American residents. However, even in the United States, they live in hidden exile, unable to reveal their identities for fear of being discovered by their male relatives and targeted with assassination attempts from anti-American Iraqis. They rely on their strong Christian faith to remain hopeful about their future.

For her photo documentary project, Guests: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Bulisova traveled to Syria to photograph refugees who fled Iraq because of their political, religious, or ethnic affiliation. "I found them in dire economic and emotional straits-often traumatized, desperate, and disillusioned," Bulisova said. "Uprooted from their homes and families with no future and no hope for return, they bear witness to the lesser-known consequences of the war."

While working in Syria, Bulisova learned of the plight of Iraqis who were forced from their homes specifically because they had helped the United States. As such, these Iraqis were labeled as traitors and targeted for assassination. "Some of them had made it to America where they were having experiences and feelings both similar to and different from those of Iraqi refugees who had remained in the Middle East," Bulisova said of the people she photographed for her latest project, The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States. "Many feel abandoned by the country they helped and risked their lives for; many are unemployed and facing financial crises; many yearn for the embrace of family and friends left behind; and many wish they could return home."

Bulisova, who is from the former Czechoslovakia and now lives in Washington, DC, has also photographed the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, victims of the 2006 Lebanon War, and the lives of formerly incarcerated women. "I want to tell their stories," she said.

To view more of Bulisova's work, visit gabrielabulisova.photoshelter.com or click through the expanded gallery of her photo documentary on the right side of this page.

Image caption: Gabriela Bulisova, The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States, 2009-2011.