There have been several times when I have discussed photojournalism and the challenges associated with it. While travelling for the last few months to three countries in an attempt to find employment and just get out of the UK for a while. My experience has been consistent with what I anticipated.
I had the desire to travel to different countries to take photographs of the world. I was inspired by my favourite photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. While they travelled to countries like Iraq and Libya, I did not have the opportunity to do the same.
Several reasons prevent me from travelling to Iraq, one of which is the possibility of being accused of being a terrorist or attempting to join a terrorist organization. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many British Muslims. It does not matter if you are a professional, such as a doctor. Travelling to other countries while being visibly Muslim may result in you being perceived as a threat.
In spite of the fact that I wear a hijab, a niqab, and an abaya, people have a difficult time believing that I am a photojournalist. They appear to be looking at me as if I am lying. The same thing happened to me when I travelled to different countries, and I received the same reaction that I was lying about being a photojournalist. I’m used to that reaction in the UK.
In Turkey, I was treated like a Syrian refugee by some people who made fun of my niqab and followed me around the shops. Although most people were kind, helpful and polite. After my arrival in Turkey, I did not bother taking many photographs due to the manner in which I was being treated. I intended to show the smaller towns of Turkey where I stayed, such as Budur, Salda Galou and Teffini.
Salda Lake in Salda Galou – Turkey
Since many of the smaller towns were lovely, I wanted to encourage others to visit them. Despite my desire to focus on positive stories and experiences, I was not able to do so on my second trip to Turkey. Since I was harassed daily by the police and treated as a second-class citizen. Therefore, I did not feel inclined to take any photographs or write anything positive about my second trip to Turkey. When I was in Turkey for the first time, I was there for 10 days and found things to be fairly pleasant. However, the second time around, it was truly awful.
Saudi Arabia was probably the best location for taking photographs. As well as being open to photography, locals and authorities were willing to pose for photographs.
Photo Riyadh in Saudi Arabia
During my visit to Dubai, I walked into a police station and inquired about the laws regarding filming and photographing. I was very grateful for the police’s explanation of where I could and could not photograph, as well as their offer to host me. Locals were happy to be filmed and photographed, and I even produced a short documentary about my time in the UAE that I will publish next month.
Those in the UAE were surprised to learn that I was a niqabi photojournalist. Muslim women are still perceived by the world as oppressed or a threat, in my opinion. It is widely believed that Muslim women, especially Niqabi women, are not empowered or even considered part of the photojournalism industry. Who is responsible for this? There is a problem with the ideology of people, not with Muslim women.
Moreover, the photojournalism industry is responsible for portraying Muslim women in the media as impoverished refugees or oppressed women who do not have an empowered position, as well as for underrepresenting and failing to recruit more Muslim women.
It is unfortunate that Muslim women who attempt to break the stereotypes of oppressed women and educate themselves in industries where there is a lack of representation are not given the opportunity to work in those industries, even though they are qualified and experienced.
In the UK, there are 0.4 percent of Muslim journalists and even fewer in the field of photojournalism. Maybe if the media recruited more Muslims, people would be less surprised when women like me claim to be photojournalists.
As a photojournalist, I have spent my entire career highlighting the challenges Muslim photojournalists face; however, things do not appear to be improving. It is imperative that this industry undergo a significant amount of change, and more needs to be done to achieve that change.