benj gerdes

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Because There Are So Many: Iraq

by Benj Gerdes & Jennifer Hayashida

Single-channel HD video, 8:00, 2007.

Four Iraqi men discuss their flight from Iraq following the United States invasion in 2003.  Between them––an interpreter for the US Military, a computer technician for a military contractor, an english professor, and an oil ministry employee––a dialogue emerges about their lives as refugees in Sweden.  They discuss their divergent approaches to coping with trauma and the representing themselves.  To them, Iraq as a nation exists only in the past-tense.

While in Sweden on a research grant for an unrelated project, we read numerous articles about the status of Iraqi refugees in Sweden.  Of the over 2 million people estimated to have fled Iraq since March of 2003, Sweden has accepted the third largest number of refugees (after much larger groups in Jordan and Syria).  In 2006, Sweden took in approximately 9,000 refugees, whereas the U.S. has accepted only about 600 Iraqis since the start of the war. Our interest in the lives of the Iraqi refugee diaspora stems from a profound frustration with past and present U.S. foreign policy, and also a wariness regarding how Sweden’s welfare state ideology will negotiate a rapidly growing immigrant population. Södertälje, with its preexisting Assyrian community, has attracted a large proportion of the Iraqi asylum-seekers; as such, the Iraqi community in Södertälje presented us with a unique opportunity to learn more about the relationship of Swedish immigration policies to U.S. military interventionism, global migrations of people, as well as the perspectives of those affected on how the U.S. should take responsibility for its actions.  Rather than positing immigration as a solution, we intend this video to take up a certain media space that has been obscured, intentionally, in the United States around images of dissent and displacement.

4:00 Excerpt


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Because There Are So Many: Iraq | 2007 | projects