Photojournalist of the month: Jiro Ose

Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Jiro Ose has worked as a freelance photojournalist since 2005, and has covered the historical election in Congo, the Sudanese refugee crisis and the departure of deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti amongst other events and states. His coverage of the Democratic Republic of Congo election won him the Award of Excellence in the Magazine General News Story category of the Pictures of the Year International competition . The selection below are drawn from Ose’s ‘SOS from Iraq’ which he describes as follows:

I was sent to cover the 2003 Invasion of Iraq by Newsday, one of New York’s dailies. I entered Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) through Iran, like many other journalists who were rushed in to cover the war. When the City of Kirkuk fell, I entered with Kurdish Peshmaga fighters and thousands thronged the streets and greeted us as though we were liberators of the city. Saddam was finally gone. The air was filled with euphoria. People danced and chanted on the street. A bronze statue of Saddam was brought down and beaten with their sandals.

I hardly saw any fighting except American bombers dropping bombs on Kirkuk in the distance. Infamous Republican Guards peeled off their uniforms and melted into the population. It was dangerous, still. It was still a war. I walked the field where another journalist was killed by stepping on a landmine. I drove past the intersection where, only half an hour later, another journalist was killed when a suicide bomber drove through in a car laden with explosives. What was to come there after is beyond comparison: the total collapse of Iraqi society, fighting between religious and ethnic lines. Yet, the only time I saw the dark sign of what was to come was the second night in Kirkuk.

I heard a lot of commotion outside the hotel. Parked in front was a taxi. On its bonnet lay a boy’s lifeless body. Half of his head was blown clean off. A group of men who had surrounded the taxi were shouting; these were Turkmen, one of the many minority groups in Iraq. They said they were under attack by Kurds, and that the boy was shot by a Kurdish sniper. They knew that a group of international journalists were staying at the hotel. The protest lasted about an hour and when the men left the lifeless body on the ground remained. Several hours later, someone could no longer tolerate its sight, so covered it with a flag of Turkmen.

Yet, I still did not really seen the real cost of the war, if you call it a war, until I visited Red Crescent Hospital in Amman, Jordan 5 years later.

Walking through the 2nd floor of Red Crescent hospital in Amman, Jordan, you bear witness to the devastation the war and ensuing violence have brought upon the civilian population on a daily basis in Iraq. Because of the curfew, lack of safety and medical supplies, hospitals inside Iraq cannot perform long and complicated surgery. They are the lucky ones (referring to a selected few who are brought to the hospital to the program by Medecins Sans Frontiers , MSF, France),” said Dr. Nasser, an Iraqi plastic surgeon who preferred that only his first name to be used. Because of the escalating violence, MSF France pulled their international staff from Iraq three years ago. Now they assist Iraqi hospitals across the border by providing drugs and medical supplies. They also set up a surgical program in cooperation with the Jordanian Red Crescent Hospital in Amman where they perform reconstructive surgery for patients who have been handicapped by injuries or incomplete procedures free of charge, including transportation from Iraq and back after the recovery. 

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