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PHOTOGRAPHS AND WORDS BY LOIS RAIMONDO

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Photojournalist Lois Raimondo went into Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. This is what she saw.

Lois Raimondo was there when we were not. Here is some of what she saw and heard. 

In the months following the 9/11 attacks, Raimondo was a journalist in Afghanistan covering the U.S.-led offensive for The Washington Post, and in October 2003 she was on assignment for Smithsonian Magazine to document the war in Iraq. Raimondo, now an assistant professor and Shott Chair of Journalism in the Reed College of Media, chose not to embed with the U.S. military in Iraq, a decision that made her work more dangerous but led her to gain an understanding of the lives of individuals over the statements of groups. 

She’s been working toward understanding humanity’s perspectives since before she served as a translator forCBS News during President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 trip to China. At the time she was a graduate student living in a Chinese village where she collected folktales. A lifetime of listening led to the work shown here that focuses on people facing the immediate consequences of war, which is still relevant as the globe is enmeshed in the same conflicts. 

Today, we as humans are still deciding what to do about the real dangers and visceral fears that surround us. In a time when political candidates have discussed “carpet bombing” and banning swaths of people from the U.S., Raimondo’s work is just as valuable a reminder as it was when it was first published — you can’t understand until you’ve listened.

— DIANA MAZZELLA


“Introducing strangers, even enemies, through unguarded moments of other — the stillness of the frozen photographic moment — creates a safe space where mindfulness, curiosity and even compassion may grow.” 
LOIS RAIMONDO

widow

SADDAM’S WIDOWS
Adhima Ali Abdul Hilli, 48, arrested and accused of political crimes by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers in 1985, was imprisoned and, at one point, two hours from death when a sympathetic officer stayed her execution. Her crime, under the Hussein regime, was to deliver food to a neighbor whose husband was imprisoned in one of Hussein’s jails. 

Girls Jump

GIRLS JUMP
Ula Majid, center, a first-grader at the Noral Shan Mixed Primary School, plays a local version of Simon Says with her schoolmates during recess on the school playground. The school, in a neighborhood of neat single-family homes, was one of the first to re-open after the U.S.-led coalition invasion. Headmistress Najah Kamel, in response to post-invasion terrorist bombs and kidnappings, has hired five armed men to stand guard at the front gates of the school.

baghdads Book Cafe

BAGHDAD’S BOOK CAFÉ
Riadh Kadhum Ziarach, center, Sadr City representative, meets with local scholar Amir Nayef Al-Sayegh, right, requesting English-language translation of a 10,000-signature appeal letter put forth by his district’s constituents, urging U.S.-led coalition leadership to allow democratic elections inside Sadr City. The missive was never acknowledged, and the coalition shortly thereafter appointed former associates of Saddam Hussein to rule Sadr City.

Refugee Camp Family

REFUGEE CAMP FAMILY Bibi Lala, 24, with children Hassan, 6, and Shukara, 2, fled the regional capitol of Taloqan when the Taliban burned their home to the ground. For more than a year, the displaced family has been living with 3,000 others in the Dashte Qalat refugee camp. Without money or means to build a protective structure, the small family exists on a small plot of dirt with a blanket staked in the ground to protect them from daily dust storms so severe they can tear skin from one’s body. 

refugee Camp ShepherdsCollateral Damage

REFUGEE CAMP SHEPHERDS
A blinding dust storm scatters animals in an Afghan refugee camp where young shepherds, displaced from their Taliban-occupied villages, now tend to the community’s diminished herd. Already stressed by drought, ongoing Taliban occupation and now displacement, refugee camps are nearing their breaking points. Last night’s donated rice and oil rations ran out well before the camp got fed. With the Taliban controlling border crossings, and U.S. bombs falling inland, foreign aid agencies are pulling up stakes and moving out. As of July 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council estimated there are approximately 700,000 internally displaced persons in Afghanistan. Violence has been the major factor in involuntary population movements among Afghans.


COLLATERAL DAMAGE
A young girl writhes in pain at Taloqan Public Hospital while her mother tries in vain to comfort her. The girl, officially recorded as “collateral damage” when entering the hospital, has metal fragments embedded in her stomach and torso, sustained during a U.S. aerial bomb attack on her village, which was a well-known Taliban stronghold.

Kapahasan HillA Brief Respite

KAPAHASAN HILL
With the glow of an American bomb dropping on the horizon, Northern Alliance soldiers stand atop Kapahasan Hill, waiting for daylight opportunity to advance on the weakened position. The 2001 Ramadan Offensive took place in northern Afghanistan with U.S. bombs targeting Taliban strongholds east to west across the Hindu Kush mountain range. With every bomb dropped, Afghan ground troops pushed westward battling back remaining Taliban fighters.


A BRIEF RESPITE
War-weary soldiers, recovering from a fierce three-day battle with Taliban troops, huddle together for warmth in an underground bunker as winter night blankets the mountain. Every soldier on the Kapahasan Hill frontline has been wounded two or more times. Mostly due to longevity. If they survive enemy fire, and landmines, then most Afghan men of this region have been involved with war since they were young boys. On this night, they are one, collective imagination held captive by their leader, Commander Razimio, as he reads aloud to them tales of young love and loss from a tattered book of ancient Persian poetry.