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A snapshot of life in Bam, Iran

By Alireza Aghaei, Iranian Red Crescent, in Bam. Photos by Alireza Aghaei and Till Mayer (5 July 2004)
Zahra, 11, gazes at the destroyed Arg-e-Bam citadel, as she remembers the strong earthquake that struck half a year ago. She is still surprised that a city the size of Bam could be destroyed in mere seconds.

The children who took part in the photo project
in front of Bam's ruined citadel

The young girl stands on a rounded hill, with the sunlight behind her illuminating the grief-stricken city. In big letters "Red Crescent Junior Photographer" is written on her white T-shirt.

Zahra is one of 55 children who participated in a photography workshop entitled "With different eyes", part of a joint project undertaken by the Iranian Red Crescent and the International Federation.

The Federation's Information Delegate, Till Mayer, who
had the idea for the project, with some of the Red Crescent
Junior photographers. Photo by Alireza Aghaei/IRCS

The projects brought together children and teenagers from this city in this south-eastern city of Iran, and helped them to learn how they could depict the reality of their lives, through taking photos in their disaster-affected city.

Many children like Zahra lost a parent, relatives or friends in the 26 December tremor. When a disaster happens, most people pay attention to relief and rescue activities. But what of those who are suffering from psychological traumas?
Some 55 children took part in the photo project.
Despite their lingering sadness, it was a chance to have
some fun and tell the outside world about their lives

Children are amongst the most vulnerable in terms of psychological disorders following a disaster, and there are many such orphans living with their relatives in Bam and surrounding areas at the moment.

Even if normality gradually returns to Bam, it will take years for many children to overcome their sadness.

The photo workshop was therefore a wonderful opportunity for a carefully selected group of them to forget the terrible event for a while and to begin smiling once again.

They had 5 days to take around 26 shots each using 55 disposable cameras and, so give a snapshot of their lives.

Children look at the ruins and collapsed houses around the citadel, some with hope for reconstruction and some with sadness.

"I am very sad," says Nahid, a ten year-old girl. "I was here one day before the earthquake. I can't believe such a big castle like the Arg-e-Bam was destroyed in a night and reduced to ruins."

But now, there is also time for fun during the workshop. "I am very glad to see the smile on their face. I am trying to make them happy," states Aghdas Kafi, head of Red Crescent psychological support teams in Bam.
Aghdas Kafi, head of Red Crescent psychological
support teams in Bam, discussed some of the
images produced by the young photographers

She and her volunteers are happy to see excitement and freshness in the eyes of the children.

"It is amazing to see the children capture all aspects of their lives. For us as aid-workers, it is a great privilege to see the situation through the eyes of the children."

The Iranian Red Crescent has been involved in the psychological support services in Bam since the first days after the earthquake.

To support the children in regain a semblance of normality and encourage their interest in photography arts, four professional Red Crescent photographers together with the Federation's information delegate conducted a one-day photo workshop.

All five photographers taught them the basic principles of photography, but there was also time to play games and have fun. At the end of the event, the children were given the opportunity to take their first 'official' shots. A lot of cameras clicked when the participants went to a symbolic place: Arg-e-Bam.

The end product of the project will be a bilingual book in English and Farsi, which will be available at the end of this month. The book will show Bam and its disaster through the different views and thoughts of the professional photographers and the children.

Four thousand copies will be published and distributed throughout the world. The selected photos, which will also be shown in an exhibition, will constitute a memorial to the disaster.
Red Crescent photographer Kourush Adim teaches
the children the principles of photography

After all the photos had been developed and printed, the children gathered in a ceremony organised by the IRCS and the Federation.

They received T-shirts and gifts, and the group was also given five digital-cameras so that they could pursue their new-found activity and continue to show their reality by posting it on the Red Crescent website.

"I am very happy to join the workshop and I would like to see my photos in the book", says Zahra, grinning through the yoghurt covering her face. Her white "beauty mask" is a funny memorial from the last game.

"Some years from now, I will return to the reconstructed Bam. Then we will sit together again, seeing the photos in the book," says Till Mayer, the Federation's information delegate, who had the initial idea for the project.

"Some of you will be young adults already, and the pictures from the ruins will tell a story from a time, which is far, far away."
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