Iraqi photographer’s lens captures Iraq’s protests, women’s role in exhibit on uprisings

Hazim’s images challenged the stereotype about Iraqis being blindly led by their political leaders like “herds by their shepherds.”
Sunday 15/03/2020
 A young woman reads a newspaper near Tahrir Square in Baghdad during protests. (Amir Hazim)
A hunt for the right moment. A young woman reads a newspaper near Tahrir Square in Baghdad during protests. (Amir Hazim)

BAGHDAD - When anti-government demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and southern Iraq last October, Amir Hazim, a fine arts graduate and professional photographer, joined the protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to record the unprecedented popular movement through his camera lens.

Hazim, 23, has a passion for documenting people’s lives, routines and events. He devoted much of his time to make black-and-white photos to archive Iraq’s revolution.

“Taking a photo is like making a painting,” Hazim said. “I like black-and-white photography because I love to see things in these two colours and to put people in the context directly without any colour distraction.”

The protests that have rocked Iraq for six months saw scores of young people pour into the street to express their rejection of a corrupt political class and call for reforms.

Hazim said his passion for photography started in 2017 and has concentrated on shooting his subjects in black and white using a professional camera that he purchased with the help of family and friends.

“Everything is worth being photographed if you feel that moment with your lens. It all started as a passion and an obsession but, recently, I took it to a professional level and turned the hobby into a career,” Hazim said.

He started by capturing scenes he reckoned would be of interest to the public and posted them on social media.

“What made me continue to do photography is my inner lust to handle the camera and hunt for the right movements to snap photos that I wanted people around the world to see. I thought there is a bright side in every photo that has to be seen by all,” Hazim said.

He said his images challenged the stereotype about Iraqis being blindly led by their political leaders like “herds by their shepherds.”

“That is totally untrue. My duty as a photographer was to deliver facts from the field and expose the realities that were revealed by the protests,” Hazim said.

“While photos are still, in my own way I can make them move and speak to the recipients,” he said. “Each photo I snap has a big story behind it and, through those photos, I wanted to show the world who these people really are and that the protesters who have been protesting for months are not just numbers.”

Capturing Iraqi women’s unprecedented participation in the protests was at the heart of Hazim’s documentarian work.

“I was so excited to take photos of the women-led marches,” he said. “Iraqi women have long been denied the right to raise their voices publicly in a country where tribal customs and traditions are still deeply entrenched in society. Actually, women have torn down many taboos by standing with their brothers and I am proud that I documented these moments.

“Photos tell people many different things, including the time, the place and the story of what is illustrated.”

Hazim’s photography, at first capturing “mementos,” became a “full-time job to provide photos to media outlets around the region and have them published in esteemed platforms over the world. I wish my photos will be included in history textbooks to give future generations insight into what was done to earn our rights,” he said.

Hazim’s work was featured in an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates about Iraq’s protests. The show titled “All What I Want is Life” takes its name from a phrase echoed on the streets of Baghdad and scrawled across the city’s walls.

“The exhibition was about the revolutions and uprisings that took place in the Arab region, including Iraq. I participated with 20 photos summarising the protests. Although the number was small, the photos conveyed the voices of millions,” he said.

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