Vedat Xhymshiti: war zone witness
Last year when experienced conflict journalist Vedat Xhymshiti turned up at one of our meetings, we at HIP were inspired and to be honest very proud that our local independent press could attract such a calibre of volunteer. During 2015-16, Vedat has written a number of articles for the Hastings Independent, giving frontline news and personal knowledge and experience of the Syrian conflict.
Now, the man we know as Vudi is raising funds for a project that will see him travel through war zones as a photographic witness. Here’s what he told us about his project.
At the end of World War II, the full scale of Nazi atrocities against European civilians, and the abuse of U.S. prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps were revealed.
These horrors prompted the international community to take a firm stance against the worst excesses of war; the Nuremberg trials saw Nazi war criminals held accountable for their actions, and the Geneva Conventions were signed to make sure that these inhumanities would never happen again.
But as history has made clear, these measures are not enough. The Rwandan Genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, the United States’s war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Daesh’s [ISIS] persecution of Yazidis, Kurds and Syrians – without witnesses to bring the world’s attention to these atrocities many of them would stay buried, those responsible would never be held to account, and more innocent blood would be spilled.
My intention is to silently go back in the war zones, in order to witness and photographically document the daily life of unarmed men, women and children. As we have been witnessing so far, civilians are continuously targets of wars that have little to do with them; since political and ideological enemies have not yet found a way to solve their disagreements without bloodshed.
There are rights for the civilians, and those are guaranteed with international conventions, which the majority of countries and states have agreed and are obligated to respect. But this respect does not stop bullets. Just in the recent civil war in Syria, there have been more than 200,000 unarmed men, women and children targeted and killed by either government or insurgent armed forces. This is because, despite the lofty aims of legislations, war crimes are rarely investigated adequately, and war criminals are rarely held to account.
This project will bring photographic evidence of ongoing breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and these pictures and video will be used as a tool to pressure the UN and other policy leaders to enforce these laws.
One of the project’s goals is to trigger a possible safe-entry of International Humanitarian organisations, such as IRC, UNHCR, UNICEF ect; people who would not just be able to observe and collect evidence, but who would also take steps to ensure the safety of unarmed and unprotected men, women and children. This would go some way towards alleviating the so called ‘migrant crisis’ in Europe, as well as undermining the forces which encourage people to fight in this conflict.
Recently many governments are expressing their concerns that members of armed groups and terrorist organisations are entering the European Union as refugees. While these claims are often unfounded, there is an undeniable danger of this happening. With the proper enforcement of IHL, the International Community would be able create safe zones within conflict zones; allowing them to vet people in Internationally Displaced People Camps for possible terrorist connections. Thus making it difficult, if not impossible, for terrorists to enter the EU, undetected.
Creating UN controlled buffer zones in conflicted territories will go some way towards returning the rule of law to these places, and will undermine the slow of personnel to armed groups. This will bring us a step closer to the end of this conflict, as well as allowing humanitarian aid to be brought to towns and villages besieged by fighters, like the very recent case in Syria’s Madaya.
With International Humanitarian Organisations’ joining the campaign to enforce International Humanitarian Law in this conflict, unarmed and unprotected civilians will be made significantly safer. Additionally media personnel will gain safer access, and will be able to properly and comprehensively witness and report what is happening there. This would not just benefit the civilians who are trapped there, but it will also give us a chance to trigger debates and open discussions about this conflict. A vital precursor to holding those fueling war with weapons and money to account.
About Vudi: For five years it’s been my job to witness, document and report the realities of war as a photojournalist. My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Associated Press and Der Spiegel, among others. Most recently I worked in Syria, acting as a voice to the voiceless for unprotected men, women, and children embroiled in the bloody war. Now I’m preparing to travel into the midst of war again, but I need your help.
After investigating police corruption and organised crime in my native Kosovo, I was forced to flee and hounded across Europe by my own government. I arrived in the UK with nothing but the clothes on my back; my property and savings at home seized. In total, I need around £15,000 to continue my work. This money will go towards materials – such as decent photography and video equipment, a flak jacket, helmet, and gas mask – as well as health and life insurance, travel funds, fees for translators, ground transportation, accommodation and security escorts, and so on.
I cannot reveal the full details of my plans for security reasons, but the next stage of my journey will involve covering one of the most significant conflicts in the modern world; investigating reports of horrific crimes being perpetrated against civilians and medical workers. I promise I will return alive and with evidence.
My pre-existing relationship with major news outlets means my work will be displayed for the whole world to see, so that the perpetrators can be held to account, and the flow of innocent blood can be stemmed.
I strongly believe in direct humanitarian action, therefore I am making the 1st step forward, but without your support I cannot move.
Be with me, my project is depended on your humanly intended financial contribution, let us give a voice to the voiceless and bear witness to the innocent, a chance to change the world bit-by-bit.
Please donate if you can, and raise awareness by sharing this campaign with your friends and colleagues.
Project Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VXtheCall/
Project posted at UK Crowd-funder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/TheCall
Project Twitter account: https://twitter.com/vedatxh
Project author: Vedat Xhymshiti, www.VXPictures.com
Author’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VedatXhymshiti/
Project Wordsmith: George West
The Voice of the Project: Kate Renwick
Project Graphic Designer: Rigon Kurteshi: http://vxpictures.com/team/rigon-kurteshi/
Project Posters: http://www.dropbox.com/home/TheCall_CMP_%C2%A9Rigoni