Humans of New York: Kurdistan or Iraq?

HONY.Kurdistan or Iraq.Azheen. Awat.    Humans of New York (HONY), is a photo blog initiated by Brandon Stanton, the man behind the camera, in the summer of 2010. “I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map”. As he went along in taking photos of residents of New York, he also started sharing their quotes and asking them questions. In the first year though, he was only taking pictures without captions; however, as more time went on and he started engaging in conversations with his subjects – he started adding small quotes as captions. “HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City”.


      Stanton has followers from almost every country around the globe. And despite having over eight million followers on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – HONY has also become an inspiration to residents of other countries. Cities within the United States have also started their own photo blogs such as Humans of Portland to other citizens around the world such as Humans of Tehran – and closer to home: Humans of Kurdistan.


       Humans of New York as of August of 2014 embarked on a journey in collaboration with the UN. Stanton posted on his page that, “I’ll be taking a 50 day trip in partnership with the United Nations, supported by the Secretary General’s MDG Advocacy Group.” He continued to say that, “I’ll be posting portraits and stories from the trip on the blog. We’re calling it a ‘World Tour,’ because the trip will span over 25,000 miles and circumnavigate the globe.” However, only a limited amount of countries are on the itinerary, amounting to a total of ten countries. He ends the statement with: “The point of the trip is not to “say” anything about the world. But rather to visit some faraway places, and listen to as many people as possible.”


    The countries HONY along with the UN had on the itinerary was not shared with their audience but the first place Stanton visited was Iraq. And to be more exact, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. HONY internationally received a lot of praise for raising awareness about the stories of ordinary people who live in this part of the world – but the locals in the region all had something to complain about: that he wasn’t mentioning the fact that he was in Kurdistan. The cities he visited varied from: Erbil to Duhok to Kalak. These are all cities within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – yet, when posted, he would only refer to them as (the name of the city, Iraq). Thousands of people urged him to, through comments on the Facebook page, mention where he really was, but all efforts failed since he ended the trip and continued on to Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    It is understandable that since Kurdistan is not a country, it wouldn’t make much sense for Stanton to call it only that. However, the common view shared amongst the people criticizing him was that he was only able to roam around freely in the streets of the KRG because of the obvious difference in safety between the KRG and the rest of Iraq. And since he manages his own social media networks – he must’ve discerned how many comments were addressing that issue. His fans from this region would’ve only seen it as fit for him to have changed the caption since it’s such a sensitive topic or to have simply addressed an answer as to why he wasn’t writing it down.  

By: Azheen Ihsan Fuad