World Refugee Day this Friday, June 20
Friday, June 20, 2008 5:00-8:00 p.m
Aperture Foundation, 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor between 10th and 11th Avenue
Opening Remarks by Lesley A. Martin, Publisher, Aperture Books; Pierre Bertrand, Director, UNHCR; Caroline Avakian, Director of Communications & External Relations, FilmAid International
Zalmaï , acclaimed photographer and former Afghan refugee, will discuss the work in his upcoming book Silent Exodus: Portratis of Iraqi Refugees in Exile
Abraham Awolich, one of the “lost boys of Sudan,” now co-director of the New Sudan Education Initiative [NESEI], will talk about his life and work and what we can do together to move toward peace.
The United Nations General Assembly designated June 20th as World Refugee Day to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world. Since then, World Refugee Day has become an annual commemoration marked by a variety of events in over a hundred countries. On World Refugee Day, people remember the millions of refugees who are trying to pick up the pieces of their once-peaceful lives. As different as they are from each other, one thing connects them all: hope for a better future and a chance to rebuild their lives.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that an estimated 4.4 million Iraqis are currently displaced from their homes as a result of the war. While nearly half were uprooted internally, the remaining citizens escaped to neighboring countries. Today, the situation of most refugees remains dire; months and years into forced flight, many are running out of money, food and the goodwill of their hosts. In Silent Exodus, photographer Zalmaï chronicles the plight of Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Over the course of several trips in 2007, made with the support of Human Rights Watch, he interviewed them, collected their individual stories, and photographed them in their homes, where many remain in uncertainty. Although running out of options for survival abroad, they are still afraid to return to Iraq, given the instability and violence that lingers there.
This event at the Aperture Foundation will be among the key events to raise awareness on refugee issues and celebrate the indomitable spirit and courage of the world’s refugees. Silent Exodus will be published by Aperture this fall.
Zalmaï was born in Kabul in 1964. He studied photography at the School of Creative Photography in Lausanne, and at the Center for Professional Education in Photography, Yverdon. He has worked as a freelance photographer for various publications and organizations including The New York Times Magazine, D-Repubblica, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Le Temps. He has traveled widely, covering stories on topics such as Tibetan and Sudanese refugees, the 40th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, and the plight of Central Africa’s Pygmees whose land is being destroyed through deforestation. His work has appeared in numerous group and solo shows, including an exhibition on victims of anti-personnel mines produced by the ICRC in twelve European cities. He has won several awards, among them the prestigious World Press Joop Swoop Master Class award (1997). He divides his time between Geneva and New York and returns to Afghanistan as often as possible to continue his work of documenting a society undergoing reconstruction.