Last December VR Gorilla travelled to northern Iraq, to shoot docu style VR scenes inside refugee camps. This project is a collaboration between Stichting Vluchteling and VR Gorilla. We are working hard to create the most immersive experience possible and are really excited about the whole project.
In Iraq we visited 2 different refugee camps: Gawilan and Domiz. Both camps are based in northern Iraq, which is part of Kurdistan. We also visited one family that has taken refuge in one of the many unfinished structures in an urban area, close to Dohuk city.
Gawilan is a relatively small camp (approximately 7.000 refugees) and has been there for about 4 years now. This camp hosts mainly Syrian Kurdish refugees that fled over the course of the past years. Some of them fled Assad, others IS or bombings by different other parties. In some cases it is not even clear which ‘side’ dropped the bom that caused their house to collapse.. In Gawilan we met and talked to many very friendly people, all with sad and sometimes extreme stories. We followed Wenji, a mother of 4 (including a 3 month old baby) and Zaki, a father of 10 (!) kids, who has lost is leg due to a bombing and is now unable to work and provide for his big family. Both stories really got to us
Domiz is a much bigger camp, with over 50.000 refugees, again mainly Syrian Kurds. This camp has already been there for over 5 years and people are really trying to make the best of it here, something you can see by looking at the many small shops and boutiques that people have been setting up there. Inside Domiz we met and followed Mohammed. A father of 4, of which 2 disabled boys, who had to leave everything behind and on top of it all lost his tent in Domiz due to a fire.. Again a very intense and sad story.
The last story we recorded was that of Farah, a 12 year old girl that had to flee her town due to IS invading. She now lives with her family in an unfinished house (there are a lot of these all around due to the fighting going on..) in a more urban area. She tells us about how they had to flee and what it means for her to miss her friends, school, toys and all other things she has had to leave behind. One of the things that troubled her most is the depression of her brother, who is having a really hard time being a refugee and living under these conditions.
All in all, this was a very intense time for us in Iraq. Everybody we have been talking to has lost so much. Houses, family members, jobs, friends.. We hope that this project will contribute to a deeper understanding of what has been happening to these people, and why it is still so important to get more humanitarian aid in the region.
We think we have managed to capture really good shots and stories, and together with Stichting Vluchteling we will be presenting the project sometime within the next few months, so stay tuned for updates and the end result!
Photo credits: Laurens Roes, Stichting Vluchteling.
VR Gorilla is an Amsterdam based production company that creates immersive virtual reality films