Photos Capturing Life Inside the 7 Muslim Countries on Trump's Banned List

Trump's reform aimed at blocking immigration from seven primarily Muslim countries divided the public and showed how nations were gradually withdrawing into themselves. Last January, the Muslim Ban (or Travel Ban) decree stopped people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the USA.

Image: Mohamed Altoum, Sudan

Demonstrations mushroomed all around the country to protest this discrimination against Muslims, considered as "potential terrorists" by the POTUS. This decree was later thrown out by the courts. Nonetheless, after being reworded and having Iraq dropped from the list, the monstrous resolution officially went into effect last June. The only thing that changed was that it is not a blanket ban anymore, but targeted "only" people who don't have a "valid link" with America or American residents. Sigh...

Now that we are reaching the end of Trump's first year as president, we still remember the case of Palestinian photographer Eman Mohammed, living in Washington with her family, who couldn't participate in the World Press Photo 2017 in Amsterdam because she couldn't be sure she'd be able to go back to the USA, even though her native country doesn't figure on this ban list (Palestine is not recognised as a bona fide country by the USA but as an occupied territory).

March 7, 2015, Tehran, Iran. An Iranian woman and a man smoking a cigarette in one of Tehran's café. (Image: Morteza Nikoubazl/Zuma Press)

Such shocking stories are legion. Take for instance Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, He couldn't travel to the 2017 Oscars ceremony although his movie, The Salesman, was nominated. Ironically, he won the Best Foreign Language Film Award. Against this American lack of respect for the Arab world, the loss of freedom, the arbitrary labeling people according to their origins and the growing stigmatisation of people of Arab and/or Muslim denomination in the West, the 3K Project was born.

Contrary to the Biennial of contemporary Arab world photography that took place in Paris in September, the 3K Project is politically engaged and deals with more than just art. It is a direct answer to the Muslim Ban.

Showcasing unknown photographers

The 3K Project is inviting photographers from the seven banned countries, but also American photographers wanting to express their stance against the Muslim Ban, to send them their work. Participants have to send ten images depicting their day to day life in these countries, with only one restriction: the images must be taken at a maximum of three kilometers from their place of residence (hence the name, 3K, for 3 Kilometres).

The aim of this competition is to offer a new vision of the Arab world, away from the clichés and prejudices, while confronting the Western worldview: these images will show both the differences and the similarities between the banned countries and the USA:

"The 3K Project raises questions about freedom and identity and the ability photography has to change people’s perceptions. This creative activism also draws attention to the commonalities people from Los Angeles and Mogadishu may share. Despite the 15,000 kilometers that separate them, individuals face the same challenges for a better life for themselves and for their children.

 The goal of this 3km perimeter is to reveal the daily reality of photographers living in these affected parts of the world. The way they have breakfast, where they sleep, how they bring their children to school or how they spend their day – aspects of a routine we can all relate to and thus empathize with. It also aims at deconstructing stereotypes and misconceptions often spread by mass media. “The other” may not be so different than us after all."

Image: Mohamed Altoum, Sudan

This competition is, of course, free and open to anyone living either in the USA or in one of the banned countries. On December 15, 2017, the winner will be awarded a $1000 cash prize, but that's not all: "Winning and shortlisted photographers will be included in a global press campaign, featured across the Lucie Foundation website and exhibited at cultural organizations and festivals across the Middle East and USA (including PhotoNola and Prospect New Orleans, and the 10th Anniversary Edition of  MOPLA – Month of Photography of Los Angeles)."

As you can see, the first photos received promise a great competition, displaying a well-defined style and narrative. We want more of this stuff, please.

Behind this event, the Lucie Foundation.

The 3K Project is both a collaborative and political event, aimed at promoting so far hidden talents, photographers we never hear about, who are not represented by any gallery or never had a book published, but nonetheless represent the future of contemporary Arab photography.

Behind this project, we find the Lucie Foundation, a voluntary organisation based in Los Angeles whose mission is to "Honor Master Photographers, Discover and Cultivate Emerging Talent and Promote the Appreciation of Photography Worldwide". There is also Hossein Farmani, gallery owner and founder of the project and Aline Deschamps, photographer and head of project, who states: 

"The concept for the 3K Project got started shortly after Trump's executive order 13769 at the beginning of the year. The were all quite shocked by this decision, but the project also comes from a joke with Hossein Farmani.

We said to ourselves: "if the USA doesn't want Iranians, Yemenites, Sudanese etc... on thier soil, well, we'll just go to these banned countries and set up an exhibition there!". It was kind of like the opposite of the Americans: you don't want here, so we'll go there (even if we're not allowed to come back).

Seriously though, we wanted to find a way to denounce this absurd decision, a kind of federalist narrative to counter labellism. For me, there's no better way to fight stereotypes  than letting people speak for themselves. With the 3K Project, it's the actual resident who tell the story, not Fox News. This project aims at deconstructing the prejudices often flaunted by mass media.

As is often the case for some of the countries listed, all we get is a photo from a Western photogrpaher. WIth the 3K Project, we are trying to reverse this trend and to allow these countries to be seen from the point of view of the people who are actually living there."

Supporting the Lucie Foundation are embassadors Tammy Mercure (USA), Majid Saeedi (Iran), Younes Mohammad (Iraq), Loubna Mrie (Syria), Ala Kheir (Sudan) et Amira Al-Sharif (Yemen). Participants are also encouraged to promote the project in their own country, to get a maximum of people taking part. We hope this project will open everybody's eyes to how random, stupid and cruel the Muslim Ban is

Image: Mohamed Altoum, Sudan

Image: Mohamed Altoum, Sudan

February 24, 2012, Tehran, Iran. A young Iranian girl with religious scholars waiting for the Friday call to prayers. (Image: Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

July 2, 2014, Tehran, Iran. Iranian men and women reciting verses from the Kuran during a religious ceremony for the beginning of Ramadan at the tomb of Saint Mohammad Helal Ibn Ali, in Aran va Bidgol, around 225 km south of Tehran. (Image: Morteza Nikoubazl/Zuma Press)

August 4, 2008, Iran. An Iranian woman playing video games at the sports and amusement park Maryam Bowling, Kish Island, in the Persian Gulf, 1 250 km south of Tehran, 17 km from the coast. Kish became the first free-market zone of the country and the gate to the West in 1982. (Image: Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

Image: Nathan Pearce, USA

Image: Nathan Pearce, USA.

Image: Nathan Pearce, USA

Image: Nathan Pearce, USA

Image: Nathan Pearce, USA

Image: Riccardo Emilien, USA

Image: Riccardo Emilien, USA

Image: Riccardo Emilien, USA

Image: Taha Krewi, Libya

Image: Taha Krewi, Libya

Image: Taha Krewi, Libya

Image: Taha Krewi, Libya

You can follow the project on Facebook. If you are resident of the USA or any of the countries affected by the Muslim Ban, you can participate here.

Rédactrice en chef de Cheese et ex-Sorbonnarde, on ne m’a pas demandé si j’aimais le fromage avant d’arriver ici. Mais j'aime bien le fromage, donc tout va bien.