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The recent August 2021 takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has left the Afghan peoples isolated, dispossessed, and displaced – two and a half million million Afghan people, globally, were formally registered as refugees by the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees. Photographers, ERE Foundation and Stefan Dotter, as well as activist, Sabrina Herzog, have collaborated on a remarkable project entitled the Hope fundraiser, for which one hundred photographers are selling their prints at eighty euros each, with the help of Art Lab Sheriff Projects. The objective is to raise enough funds for eight Afghan photography students to evacuate Afghanistan and find refuge elsewhere.

One of the groups targeted by the Taliban are the Hazara ethnic minority group (making up only nine per cent of the total population). The latest conflict in the country has destabilised them, leaving them in immediate need of humanitarian aid so that they can evacuate their country. The fundraiser brings together creatives from across the globe, each with their own idiosyncratic perception of the world for an altruistic cause that revitalises hope for our generation.

These aspiring photographers belong to the Hazara Shiite community, an ethnic minority which is at risk of genocide under the Taliban regime; six out of eight are women, meaning they are double discriminated in their own country. Afghan photographer, Farzana Wahidy, worked alongside Dotter, and UN agencies, to hold photography workshops for these students. Wahidy became an award-winning photographer through her evocative images of women and girls of Afghanistan, who suffer discrimination and exclusion from society simply for being. Her collection, The Women of Afghanistan, presents powerful images of young and elderly women after self-immolation.

Stefan Dotter, editor-in-chief of Whitelies magazine, is a visual artist based between Berlin and Tokyo, and works in both film and photography. Dotter has worked through UNHCR for the last two years with the goal of securing a future for these students, as professional photographers.

Hope presents contributions from Carlijn Jacobs, a director and photographer based between London and Paris, who’s captivating and otherworldly photography has been featured on British culture magazines, Dazed and Pop. Tom Johnson is another talent featured on Hope, a London-based photographer who is keen on showcasing his vivid and raw insight on culture, nature, and friendship; his work Dharamshala – Entorse relies on shadows and the endearing chemistry between the monks and basketball players of Dharamshala (India). David Avazzadeh has also contributed his mind-bending work; the Vienna-based, self-taught photographer is celebrated for his distinctive merging of the familiar and unfamiliar, of realism and fiction.

The art of photography is a tool used for aesthetic, expression, and in the case of photojournalism, protest. Wahidy’s photographic documenting gives a voice to the women who have, for years, been silenced; with the help of Hope, these young photographers will be able to tell their own stories, without fear.

Phemia Demosthenous

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