• Olivier PAPEGNIES / Collectif Huma

Livily pain
Villages of Borek and Katala Farahn, Chamisku camp
Photographies by Olivier Papegnies of "Collectif Huma" for Médecins du Monde

"Falling into Daesh hands mean to be a slave. I spent my days alone, without food and water. Locked in darkness as in a prison, I could not see the sun anymore. Minutes seemed like hours. I was mistreated, beaten and violated by each of my "owners". One is no longer a human being under the threat of this monstrous armed group. It’s a living nightmare". 22-year-old Haifa remained prisoner for 2 years under the men of Daesh, before finding refuge in Chamisku camp.

This story, this intimate drama, is the same drama lived by hundreds of thousands of people during the course of the second irakian civil war, between December 2013 and December 2017. Occupation of their town, bombings, battles and the race to escape from the rapid progression of the ISIS organisation. Since the partial annexation of the western part of the country by the djihadists of ISIS, the Irakians -Kurds, Yezidis, Assyrians and Arabs- lived under the same violence. Most of them recount the same painful story of being forcibly displaced, summary executions, beheadings, rapes, corporal punishment and the loss of loved ones. Nearly half of them became refugees in Irakian Kurdistan and nearby regions. From the beginning of 2017, the government of Dohuk, situated on the Turkish boarder, has admitted more than 500.000 people, living in camps of prefabricated or makeshift shelters. "After having escaped under these tragic conditions, they are traumatised. Mental health is one of these countries humanitarian problem at stake. Their past under Daesh, their present status of refugees and the uncertainty of their future are the cause of important psychological disorders" explains Amélie Courcaud, General Coordinator in Irak for MdM. The population received by Médecins du Monde suffers from anxiety, insomnia, depression or post-traumatic stress. The after-effects are important.

The photographer Olivier Papegnies joigned the teams of Médecins du Monde for a week in January 2017 to witness these invisible wounds.

In the Chamisku camp, he met Hairan, psychologist. To Yesidis women, first victims of ISIS cruelty, she teaches them breath control to alleviate anxieties and underlines the importance of exteriorising what they have experienced to a specialist. It is mostly under the mental health approach that MdM always intervenes in Irak. As Hairan says "The displaced persons should be followed and accompanied to reduce extreme suffering to which they are confronted. The pains of the soul, like those of the body, should be treated".

On the pictures, individual and group sessions, the wait for a medical appointment, destitution, boredom, make-shift, pain. And as well, the difficult return to the land they have fled in all haste, impregnated by the violence and fear. Bashra is one of these "returned". When she returned to Borek -her place of birth in the Sinjar, occupied and attacked up to 2015 by Daesh- the basic services such as access to drinkable water are no longer available and "shops" who have reopened their doors are rare. The silence is deafening, the feeling of emptiness is shattering. "I am happy to have found again my house but here everything has changed, the village is a "ghost town", all those who have returned are still fearful of ISIS organisation. Nothing will be as it was before" she says.

It is this indescribable anguish of re-found liberty after forced displacement, the horror impressed in their minds which is revealed in the photographic work of Olivier Papegnies.

Olivier PAPEGNIES / Collectif Huma

Olivier Papegnies is a photojournalist based in Brussels, member of the Collective HUMA. His photo stories are published in the Belgian and international press. He is working with the newspapers La Libre Belgique and Le Monde. He is also collaborating with NGO’s such as Doctors of the world, Amnesty International…
He received the Special jury award of “Scoop and journalism” in Angers ( France) for his work about Orange agent in Vietnam “Apocalypse children”; the European price Lorenzo Natali in 2009 for his story “Bophal, 25 years later”, the Belfius price in 2010 of the best press picture in Belgium, the NPPA Nikon press award for his story on the Haiti earthquake and the Price of the Belgian parliament in 2012 for “crazy about love” about love and mental disability.
In 2015 he received a grant from the Belgium journalism fund in order to document Christian community in Lebanon.
In 2017, he is also granted with the same found to document vigilance groups in Burkina Faso called “the Koglweogo”
In 2018 he received the prestigious award « Visa d’or « for his photo documentary « Koglweogo, when the state fails» at the international photojournalism festival
Visa pour l’image in France.