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It was a double whammy this week. Everyone noticed the 6,000 page report into CIA torture. Many won’t know that today was the day that Justice Department attorneys presented the Obama administrations rationale for suppressing over 2,100 photos and videos of torture by American military personnel in Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Since 2009, the Obama administration has argued that releasing them would inflame anti-American sentiment abroad and place Americans at risk. Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is not so easily convinced and wants the government to explain, photograph by photograph, how each might pose a threat to national security. The fight to release these photos dates to 2004, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

David Levi Strauss has tracked these developments from the very beginning. Several chapters in his new book is Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow (Aperture, 2014) deal directly with the war over control of torture photos.


Strauss and I, for WIRED talked about state secrets, how the brain is wired, the political power of images and whether or not photos of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse actually exist.

WIRED: Why has the release of 2,000-plus remaining images and videos made by US military personnel in Abu Ghraib not been resolved?

Strauss: Because of the effectiveness of the images. They became the symbol of the change in US policy to include torture. Images are very powerful. That’s why the US government has become very afraid of the effects of these images worldwide.

The other amazing thing about the Abu Ghraib images was that they crossed the boundary between private and public. That is unusual. It changed things for photojournalism, for the military, certainly, and for the public at large. Prior to the release of the Abu Ghraib images, the military was handing out cameras to soldiers so that they could use photos to stay in touch with their families, and to be used operationally.

Read the full conversation: The War Over the US Government’s Unreleased Torture Pictures.

[All images for this Prison Photography post via Salon]








© Jo Metson Scott

What happens when you’re a soldier and you are asked to fight in a war your conscience tells you is immoral?

Jo Metson Scott‘s series The Grey Line and accompanying book interrogates this conundrum and those that lived – and continue to live – it.

I’m not from a military background and I always opposed the Iraq War, so it was a stretch for me to empathise with Jo’s struggling subjects who, to me, simply made – and continue to justify – rational assessments. How difficult or taxing can common sense be? To get me out my own head, I called on Jo to explain this emotional minefield of a topic.

Scroll down to read our Q&A.

© Jo Metson Scott

© Jo Metson Scott


Prison Photography (PP): Where does the title come from?

JMS: The title is to try and explain the difficult position so many of the soldiers found themselves in. Nothing is ever black and white, nothing is ever as simple as right or wrong, and these people were having to make a decision between what they were contractually obliged to do and what they felt was the right thing to do. I felt The Grey Line was a way of explaining the difficult line they were choosing to walk.

PP: You say some of the soldiers were imprisoned for their views?

JMS: Actually, none of the soldiers were imprisoned for speaking out against the Iraq war. Some of the soldiers refused to fight in the Iraq war and were imprisoned for going AWOL, but not for speaking out.

Each person’s story is very different, so I’m always nervous about generalizing. So instead, I’ll give an example. Kevin Benderman was one of the older and higher rank soldiers I interviewed and he was very opposed to the Iraq war. He was deployed to Iraq for a short period. Over there his opinions really became clear and he felt strongly that being in Iraq was the wrong thing to do. When he came back he applied for Conscientious Objector status but it was denied. So he refused to go back. He was court martialed and given a 15 month prison sentence.

Kevin said he always knew that he would get a prison sentence. It was fascinating to hear how his morals were so strong he was compelled to go against the military and risk his career. It wasn’t that he was a pacifist, or had found God, he just strongly believed that what America was doing in Iraq was wrong. That’s what really impressed me about some of the people I interviewed, they really stayed true to how they felt. Kevin knew if he spoke out and refused to fight, his career would be ruined, he’d be accused of being a coward and he faced imprisonment, but he still refused to go to Iraq.

It’s like another person I met who refused to deploy to Iraq. He was openly gay, and could easily have got out through the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Policy, but he felt if he wanted to leave for moral reasons it would be wrong as he would see it as taking the easy option. Instead, he applied for Conscientious Objector status, which was denied, so was then imprisoned for refusing to be deployed.

Kevin Benderman can explain his situation so much more clearly that I ever will. He said to me:

“Have you heard the term, “I cannot in good conscience do that…?” Well, that’s how it was for me.

I took a look around when I got over there. We weren’t fighting an army, there were no weapons of mass destruction. None of that stuff was there. We were just bullying the civilians. We weren’t fighting soldiers; we were just kicking doors down of civilians’ houses and taking them out and that’s not what I joined the army to do. I mean, if there had been a soldier over there I would have fought a soldier, but that’s not what we were doing… not at all[…]

There was no doubt in my mind that I’d go to prison. I had to be made an example out of. I mean, I was an NCO for one. I wasn’t a young kid and they knew that if I was able to do what I was trying to do it would only strengthen my argument. They had to make an example out of me so that no one else would try it.

With all the charges they were trying to give me I could have got seventeen years. They tried to charge me with larceny, desertion, missing movement. I knew it was a bunch of bullshit. I knew they weren’t gonna be able to stick all that stuff on me. I was convicted of missing movement by design, which carried a fifteen month sentence. It was a dishonourable discharge but it was upgraded to bad conduct. But that still isn’t very good. I mean you can’t really do a whole lot with a bad conduct discharge.

I know I did the right thing but it just didn’t really change anything, you know? I invested twelve years of my life in the military. I gave that away. I gave away my retirement. I lost my home, my wife … I can’t really find a … well, I’m stuck here driving a truck.

I had more trouble with my family – sisters, brothers and brother-in-law – than with people in general.

My family didn’t even want to hear my reasons for doing what I was doing and they still don’t. Most of the ones who have openly criticised me have never served and don’t know what they’re talking about. More soldiers and veterans agree with me than my own family do. But I’m not really concerned about their opinion and that makes them mad. You know, that was part of the stress; my own family chose George Bush and his stupid ass doing something illegal over defending me, and they wouldn’t even hear my reasons why. […]

There’s still people who say I’m a hero. Well no, I’m not a hero. I was just doing what I thought was right and I really thought that people who made noises about the constitution and the law would stand up for that instead of just wanting someone to be a figurehead for them. […]

A few years ago I took a job in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. I wanted to go back was because I know I’m a good mechanic and there’re still soldiers over there and I figured they deserved somebody who was conscientious about the work. I had given them the best vehicles that they possibly had. I didn’t leave the military to abandon the people that I served with, but I knew that it didn’t matter. Whether or not it was right to be there […] I’m a good mechanic and they’re still over there. They’re not coming back and we’re not prosecuting Bush and I wanted to make sure that they had the best possible vehicles. Should we be there? No. Are we there? Yes.

© Jo Metson Scott

© Jo Metson Scott

© Jo Metson Scott

PP: Benderman’s is one story of how many? What was the number of soldiers you met?

JMS: Over the space of 5 years I met in total 45 soldiers. 29 are in the book.

PP: Has the story of conscientious objectors been adequately told?

JMS: Before I started the project, I had only associated the term Conscientious Objector to the first and second world war – to times of conscription. So I was intrigued to know why someone would need to apply for conscientious objectors status when they had willing signed up. Meeting with the veterans and doing this project made me realise that of course people who are in the military can have a change of morals and principles just like any ones else does, and some people also realise that they no longer want to be a part of war.

But not all of the people I met with were conscientious objectors. Many of them didn’t even know that the process existed. I was interested in meeting people who had moral doubts about their involvement in the Iraq war, not all were conscientious objectors.

Some people choose to whistle blow and speak out to the media about their experiences, others simply refused to fight and went AWOL. Others chose to keep quiet until they left the military and then spoke out. Speaking out from within the military is a very difficult thing to do. The quote below is from a veteran called Ryan. He was in the Marine Corp and was deployed for 7 months to Iraq. After he was honourably discharged from the military, he decided to speak out about his experiences in the military and about what he came to see as atrocities that he and his colleagues committed in Iraq.

After I made my public testimony, my brother disowned me on Facebook for everyone to see. He said I was a traitor and I wasn’t his brother anymore, that I wasn’t even a man.

Every single person that I served with in the war found out about my testimony and have publicly said that I’m a liar, a bitch, that I’m full of shit, that I’m a fucking American flag-burning, troop-hating, communist.

I understand why a lot of these guys did what they did; they’re not ready to accept that what we did was wrong … because it’s hard. It’s hard to accept that what you believed in was wrong. And not just wrong like two plus two is five, but wrong like you fucking killed somebody and that’s something you have to live with for the rest of your life. Some people just aren’t ready to live with that yet.

© Jo Metson Scott

PP: What do you hope to communicate with The Grey Line?

JMS: Many of the people I spoke to were very torn between their duty, the bond with the people they fought with and their own belief that what they were doing was wrong. Several soldiers talked about being ordered to do things that they felt very uncomfortable about doing, but that they knew were legal.

I spoke to one soldier who had been a military Intelligence officer in Abu Ghraib. He had absolute faith in the military, but was feeling very uncomfortable with what he was being asked to do. In the quote below, he talks about his experiences of interrogating a young detainee.

He was 16; just a kid, scared to death, and skinny as a rail. We went out to get him from the ‘general population’ [prisoners who aren’t in solitary confinement] area to interrogate him. The general population area was right next to the questioning booth, but they still wanted me to put one of those sacks over his head to transport him. It wasn’t like a normal sack, it was like a plastic sand bag with sand all over it. It barely fit on his head and he was shaking as I put it over him. We used it so he couldn’t see where we were taking him, even though we could see the booth from where we were standing. We had to cuff him too, but his wrists were so skinny you couldn’t put the handcuffs on him. So he just kind of carried them instead. I felt so rotten.

The weirdest thing was when we were in the room with the kid and an MI guy came in and gave the interrogating officer a handful of Jolly Ranchers. It was meant to be put on the table like, if you talk we’ll give you some apple Jolly Ranchers, you know? The kid knew nothing. He was just this guy’s son. Originally we were supposed to interrogate his father, a general in Saddam’s regime, which was why I had agreed to be a part of it. It sounded interesting. But then when we got there, they told us that he had already been ‘broken’ and as a sort of consolation we were told we could interrogate his son.

I only found out afterwards what they had done to break his father. His son had been doused in cold water, driven around in a truck in the freezing cold night, and covered in mud. I guess, at the same time his father was being interrogated somewhere else and from what I understand they told him that they’d take a break from the interrogation and let him see his son.

So the general’s thinking he’s gonna see his son and have some kind of a reunion with him, but instead they just allowed him to see his son naked, shivering, and covered in mud.

A lot of people will probably wonder why I didn’t say something publicly right away, but it would have been pointless. Even though I thought what was happening was wrong, doesn’t mean that it was illegal anyway.

© Jo Metson Scott

PP: What are your thoughts on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Jo? Was it wrong, justified, legal or illegal? Is your opinion of importance? Does it come through in the work? Or need to come through?

JMS: I was shocked when Tony Blair took my country to war. I couldn’t believe that he could go against the majority of the country’s wishes. I was shocked that he didn’t listen to the advice of the UN. Maybe it was naive of me, but that is how I felt. I think that is why I became interested in the soldiers stories. I had really believed in Tony Blair when he had come to power. I never would have dreamt he would have taken us into a war like Iraq. And that’s why I wondered how some soldiers must have felt. Many people join the military having complete faith in their government, so what happens if then the government goes into wars you think are wrong? As a soldier you have no choice.

People will always say. “You can’t have military that questions every order their given,” but on the flip side what if it was you? If it was you being asked to do something you felt in the bottom of you stomach was wrong? Something you felt went against everything you been taught? Do you ignore that feeling and carry out your contractual obligation or do you listen to your conscience?

In the end I didn’t particularly want to look at the politics of the Iraq war (though a lot of issues are raised in the book). What I wanted to explore was how an individual deals with the doubts they have in times of war. I wanted to look at the more complicated issues affecting a soldier’s decision. There are so many other things that affect one ability to make a decision – commitments to colleagues, expectations of family, financial implications, confusions of loyalty and legality. The aim of the book was to explore the complexity of their situation. There wasn’t a right way or a wrong way of doing things.

PP: How does The Grey Line fit in with your other work? You’ve recently been in Sri Lanka, you hang out with Beth Orton. I mean, to me, all your work is gentle, warm and purposeful so I’m not asking about the style or aesthetics in The Grey Line, I’m asking about its purpose for you as an artist.

JMS: I love doing commercial work and the challenges and opportunities it brings. But my approach and my purpose in doing commercial work is different to my personal work, and its difficult to compare them.

I am interested in people and because I have a camera it allows me to enter their lives in a unique way. I like to tell other peoples stories through my photographs.

For a long time now the theme of morality is something that I have questioned and explored – my own sense of morality and other people’s sense of morality, and how that affects their decisions… I think that I was unintentionally looking for way of exploring this theme with my photography, and when I first met Robert, something clicked.

PP: Can you imagine not having explored this issue? Can you imagine not having made this statement to the world?

JMS: It doesn’t really feel like I made a statement, or at least it wasn’t my statement to make. The men and women that were in the military and had the courage to question are the people making a statement.

PP: Thanks Jo.

JMS: Thank you, Pete

© Jo Metson Scott


On 20th March (6.30 -10pm) The Grey Line, published by Dewi Lewis, is having a book launch at Fishbar Gallery, 176 Dalston Lane, E8 1NG.

[Right click on the images below to view them larger.]





Jo Metson Scott is a portrait and documentary photographer whose work highlights the relationship between people and their communities. She has been commissioned by organisations including The New York Times, The Telegraph and The Photographer’s Gallery and her work has been exhibited in both the UK and Europe, including Arles Photography Festival, Nottingham Castle Art Gallery, Hereford Photography Festival and the Venice Biennale Fringe. She is repped by Webber Represents. Jo lives and works in London.

General Abul Waleed, Head of Command for the Wolf Brigade, and Col. James Steele, Samarra, Iraq. Gilles Peress/Magnum, for The New York Times.

Remember at the height of the Iraq War, when sectarian fighting raged and bodies were being dumped in the streets daily? Well, the U.S. military was directly funding many of the killers’ activities. U.S. Colonel James Steele, decorated by Rumsfeld, was the man in collusion with the murderers.

Gilles Peress‘ made the above-photo during a 2005 New York Times assignment on Iraqi counterterrorism commando units. (You can find 27 of Peress’ images  by searching “Peress Iraq 2005” on the Magnum website.) On the right is Colonel James Steele, head of General David Petraeus’ counterterrorism operations.

I included the same photo in a blog-post nearly two-and-a-half years ago alerting readers to The Guardian‘s investigation into United States’ funding of Iraqi police commandoes.

Today, and in continuation of its investigation, The Guardian published details of a massive network of torture centers operated by the Iraqi police commandos.

See the full length 51-minute documentary about Steele and read the article of  horrendous details accompanied with a 5-minute edited version of the film. to the crimes covering all the essential details of U.S. Military

“The United States funded a sectarian police commando force that set up a network of torture centers to fight the insurgency. It was a decision that helped fuel a sectarian war. At it’s height it was claiming 3,000 deaths per month,” says the narrator.

Until now, the media hasn’t been certain if these commando units were part or all of the feared ‘Death Squads’ that kidnapped, disappeared and killed people, usually following night-time raids.

Both Peress and his fellow journalist Peter Maass offer statement in the Guardian video. Peress speaks of the inexplicable amounts of blood he saw in a room of the building. During the visit incredibly loud screams of pain could be heard throughout the building. According to Maass, Steele left the room, the screams fell silent, Steele returned and Maass continued his interview with a Saudi prisoner.

General David Petraeus – and Col. Steele of course – continually denied the Iraqi police commando force had been infiltrated by Shia militias looking for revenge against the Sunni’s who had benefitted under Saddam Hussein’s reign. Iraqi’s say this is preposterous as everyone knew the police were corrupt, and that sectarian and murderous groups such as the Badr Brigade had in regions completely taken over commando operations.

Absolute scandal. What else do we not know? What else have we not seen?

I recently visited the International Center for Photography (ICP). I was encouraged to see a photo from Abu Ghraib alongside one of Robert Capa’s Normandy landing photos and Margaret Bourke-White’s photographs from a liberated Nazi concentration camp. All were featured in the enjoyable and current A Short History of Photography exhibition, showcasing works acquired during the tenure of outgoing Director Willis “Buzz” Hartshorn.

Just as Capa and Bourke-White’s photographs are iconic of the WWII conflict, the Abu Ghraib digital photos are iconic and the images of America’s War On Iraq.

Both Capa and Bourke-White, in these instances, were photographers in the thick of it, in the moment, to deliver important news of the day to corners of the globe. Of course, the rise of citizen journalism has put pay to the idea that roving career photographers are now the first to a scene of international significance.

Without doubt the Abu Ghraib images – given their historical and cultural significance and dissemination – are rightfully in the ICP collection. That is not the issue; my questions were about the label:

Unidentified Photographer: [Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh, nicknamed Gilligan by U.S. soldiers, made to stand on a box for about an hour and told that he would be electrocuted if he fell, Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq], November 4, 2003. INKJET PRINT. Museum Purchase, 2003 (113.2005)

Museum purchase? Who would be a recipient of payment for the image? I suspected it might be a case of language and not action. Ever interested by provenance and the accession of items into museum collections, I emailed ICP the following questions:

– Is “Museum Purchase” just a standard note you attach to works or did ICP actually hand over money to someone or some body for the image?
– Did ICP print it off the internet?
– When deciding to acquire it into the collection, what decisions were made about the file, the printing, the paper, the ink?

Kindly, Brian Wallis, the Deputy Director/Chief Curator at ICP responded:

The Abu Ghraib photograph now included in the “A Short History of Photography” was originally printed for the ICP exhibition “Inconvenient Evidence: Iraqi Prison Photographs from Abu Ghraib” (Sept. 17-Nov. 28, 2004).

At the time, only about twenty JPEGs were available, either on the Internet or from files supplied by the New Yorker.* We printed all images then available for the exhibition. They were printed on a standard Epson office printer, on standard 8½” x 11″. office paper, and pinned directly to the wall in the exhibition, in part to emphasize the ephemerality and informational nature of the pictures.

They were printed directly from the web with the understanding that these photographs, taken by U.S. government personnel, were in the public domain. We did not pay for them. The credit line in the current exhibition describes them as “museum purchase” in part because there is no other official museum description for how we obtained them; one could say we purchased the supplies used to print them.

So, no money exchanged hands. A relief of sorts. What one would expect.

I suppose ultimately, I have to give ICP some recognition for its 2004 reflex response to the pressing visual culture issue of the day; for presenting a set of images that for all intents and purposes falls outside of the normal acquisition avenues of major institutions.

ICP’s home-brew solution to show the Abu Ghraib, non-rarefied, non-editioned and thoroughly contemporary set of images is against the grain of many other museums chasing gate receipts through edutainment.

Left: Photo of allied forces landing on Normandy beaches, by Robert Capa; right: Photo of torture at Abu Ghraib, by unknown photographer.

– – – – – – – –

*Seymour Hirsch, who wrote Torture at Abu Ghraib (May, 2004) for the New Yorker, also provide the text for ICP’s Inconvenient Evidence exhibition – the catalogue for which you can download as a PDF

– – – – – – – –

All images: Pete Brook and taken without permission.

Okay, I know it’s premature, but it is also easy to laud writing and exposé such as this in the Guardian:

How the US let al-Qaida get its hands on an Iraqi weapons factory. Dominic Streatfeild explains how despite expert warnings, the US let al-Qaida buy an arsenal of deadly weapons – then tried to cover it up

In short, US forces failed to secure Qa’qaa, Iraq’s largest and deadliest munitions complex. The IAEA warned them of its extreme hazard prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Looted explosives were used for attacks against US and coalition troops. The Bush administration covered all this up in the two weeks before the 2004 election, Al-Qaida took control of the site and promptly murdered hundreds if not thousands of local Iraqis.


In 1991, following the Iraqi rout in Kuwait, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gained access to Qa’qaa, where they found 145 tonnes of pure RDX and PETN … [and] hundreds of drums of an off-white, crystalline powder. About as highly explosive as high explosive gets, High Melt Explosive (HMX) is used to detonate nuclear warheads. Qa’qaa had nearly 200 tonnes of it. The IAEA moved all the explosives to secure bunkers on the south-west corner of the facility, then closed the doors with tamper-proof seals. And there the 341 tonnes sat for more than a decade.

Two weeks after the start of the war, Jacques Baute, the head of the Iraq nuclear inspection teams, visited the US mission to advise, again, that the weapons sites needed protection. He specifically mentioned Qa’qaa. Just days before the invasion, he told officials, inspectors had inventoried the facility’s HMX, RDX and PETN stores and ensured that the seals were still intact. This kind of materiel, the Frenchman suggested, should be kept out of the hands of looters. There was no reaction.

By 8 May 2003, when the Pentagon’s Exploratory Task Force arrived at Qa’qaa to search for WMDs, all of the PETN, RDX and HMX was gone.

In 2004, al-Qaida established a camp inside the Qa’qaa complex itself. “We had a firing range, like a tunnel. It was used to shoot small-calibre bullets,” says Ali. “It became a training camp for terrorists.”

Anyone entering the facility without permission was killed. Al-Qaida spread horror stories about its activities, intimidating locals into collaborating. An execution room was set up with a makeshift gallows. Yusuf was part of the operation. “We used to kill people in terrible ways, torturing them to give al-Qaida more influence.” Mutilations, murders and decapitations were filmed and copies were distributed around [the local area] Yusifiyah to discourage dissent.

Read the full piece here.


This catastrophic turn of events began in the first hours of the invasion of Iraq and conituned as the West gawked and applauded the staged toppling of Saddam’s statue.

I came across Julie Adnan‘s Born in Jail series at Bite Magazine. I wanted to know more about the women and of the social backdrop of criminal justice within Northern Iraq. I was happy that Adnan could answer a few questions.

This woman was imprisoned on 8 Feb. 2009. The child was born in prison; he is 6 months old. She, an Arab from Mosul, was arrested for prostitution. At the time of the photograph, she had been imprisoned for 18 months. © Julie Adnan

This woman was imprisoned on 8 Feb. 2009. The child was born in prison; he is 6 months old. She, an Arab from Mosul, was arrested for prostitution. At the time of the photograph, she had been imprisoned for 18 months. © Julie Adnan


Why did you choose this subject?
I choose this subject because there are many children in the prison without having committed any criminal offence; there only because they’re children of those who may (or may not) have done something wrong. Nobody thinks about what the children will remember when they grow up.

What prison is this?
This is the Arbil prison for women, in the city of Arbil (also written Erbil or Irbil or Arbela) in Kurdistan of Iraq.

How long were you on assignment?
It took a long time to gain permission from the government, but after [getting permission] I took the photographs in two different visits over two weeks.

This child was born in prison. He is 8 months old. His mother was imprisoned on 29 Jan. 2009, sentenced to a year in prison for illegal sex with another person. She is from Arbil. © Julie Adnan

This child was born in prison. He is 8 months old. His mother was imprisoned on 29 Jan. 2009, sentenced to a year in prison for illegal sex with another person. She is from Erbil. © Julie Adnan

What were the reactions of staff, women and children to your photography?
The children thought it was game and they loved it, but the women was so afraid of the camera and of the photographs. As you can see, they do not want their faces to appear.

Did the families ever see or receive prints?
Unfortunately, I did not send any photos to them and I do not know if they’ve seen the photographs anywhere.

Do you plan to return to this subject or any other stories within prisons?
Yes, but not with photography. I want to document their letters to their families in a booklet.

Five of the eight women are in prison for prostitution. What sort of sentence does that carry?
It depends on their crime. It could range from a few months to five years.

Is there ever a notion that a prostitute might be a victim?
Because Islamic law rules prostitution as a crime, the government and other people can not say anything about them. Prostitution is something in the culture they cannot accept, however we have some people now who allow [make accommodations] for them but they cannot really change or do anything.

One lady was imprisoned for sex outside of marriage. Is a prison sentence common for such a transgression?
Within traditions here, a woman’s family may kill her for that [sex outside of management]. Sometimes, a woman’s stay in the prison is necessary as a secure place or a shelter.

This female gypsy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for robbery. She would like her daughter be with her in prison. Her daughter was 1 year, 8 months old at the time of the portrait. © Julie Adnan

This female gypsy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for robbery. She prefers her daughter to be with her in prison. Her daughter was 1 year, 8 months old at the time of the portrait. © Julie Adnan


Julie Adnan maintains a Lightstalker profile and a Flickr photostream. Her work has been featured at Greater Middle East Photo (a blog I highly recommend).

This article, Life in a Womens’ Shelter, Erbil perhaps more than any other relates the dangers for women should they compromise their families “honour”. It talks about shelters and prisons as being alternative institutions to family homes which – in extreme cases – can harbour the real threat of murder.


Adnan, from Kirkuk in Iraq, is a 25 year old freelance photographer, and currently a student at the art academy of Sulemanyah University in Iraq. Adnan has worked for a number of agencies newspapers and websites including The New York Times, Reuters, National Geographic, Al-Sharql Awsat, The Washington Post, Jordan Times, Taw photography magazine, Kakh magazine, Kurdistani New, Aso newspaper, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Driknews agency, World News Network, BBC World Website, IO Donna magazine of Italy and L’Express of France.

Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Green is the most restful color for the human eye; it can improve vision. Green suggests stability and endurance. Green is used to indicate safety when advertising drugs and medical products. Dull, darker green is commonly associated with money, the financial world, banking, and Wall Street. Dark green is associated with, greed, and jealousy. Aqua green is associated with emotional healing and protection.


I was looking over the following images of the protest/vigil outside San Quentin Prison on the night of Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams’ murder by the state of California.

The verdant tones of green dominate and they reminded me – like some ironic twist of a krypto-knife – of California’s death-chamber itself. San Quentin has since constructed itself a new fan-dangled killing suite … and it needed to. The Golden State had taken to injecting people with poison within its old hexagonal gas chamber.

The site became an insult to the escalating industry of death, out of sync with the newest sterile modes of person-erasure. The heavy air-locked lantern no longer suitable for the clinical 21st century methods of snuff so developed by scientists, physicians and judges.

The pea green pod that transports, transforms and accelerates passage to elsewheres; An echo of an echo-death-chamber..

One switch, one injection, one mistake, one outcome.

Two switches, two injections, two mistakes (original crime vs. retaliatory murder), two outcomes (original verdict vs. appeals all boiled in a single decision-cauldron).

A theatre reenactment. Perfect palette.


Back in San Quentin, the gurney straps itself to itself.


As a ten year old, I remember the same night time visions of green tinted destruction. John Major was in power and war seemed just.

I’ve seen them again recently …

Different century, same annihilation.

People will disintegrate, body parts will fall off, limbs will be poisoned and charred.

Democracy will teleport itself for its own arrogance, implicating a dictatorship and a sorry hybrid shall limp to an uncertain future.

And the toll shall be personal, unsuspected, for the love of the state and its rhetoric.

And the children will be the unhindered beneficiaries of a world not of their own, but the world of their violent predecessors, their decisions, amalgamations, actions and murders.

Kids become sad reminders that nostalgia, film photography and wildlife cinematics were forsaken before they could be rightfully demanded back. A new sterile age sports no death cells, no faces, no conscience, no history.

Immunology becomes the new high stakes industry …

By the way, have you ever noticed that the beat in Boards’ Kid for Today is the clickclack of a slide projector carousel?

The U.S. military freed Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, a Reuters photographer, in Iraq on Wednesday, almost a year and a half after snatching him from his home in the middle of the night and placing him in military detention without charge.


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