Detained Asylum Seekers Learn To Use Photography As a Protest Tool


Thick swarms of flies, spoiled or undercooked food, overcrowded dorms, poor medical care, and clouded mirrors. Until now, the public hasn’t seen these conditions at the Holot detention center, because reporters can’t either. Journalists are forbidden from entering the facility.

Shatil is changing the conversation by empowering detainees to get the word out through photos and videos.

The Asylum seekers from the Holot Detention Center now flood a messaging group of Activestills, a collective of photographers who use provocative photography to drive social and political change. They sent in dozens of photographs and video clips depicting appalling hygiene and safety violations at the facility, following their participation in two workshops on the use of photography as a protest tool.

On Monday, Local Call, an alternative news site, used their photos and videos to illustrate an article on Holot.

The Shatil-coordinated Freedom of Assembly Forum facilitated the workshop together with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) project DocoRights, and the Negev Refugee Center, for 30 residents of the six-winged facility. The Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF) hosted the event.

Despite their discouraging situation, participants expressed a sense of empowerment and control. They hoped to create change. One participant said, “I want to tell my story, who I am and how I got here, and then ask: Do you think I deserve these conditions?”

In the training, Bareket, an Eritrean refugee freed from Holot and an alumnus of a similar training, shared his successes in improving conditions in Holot through photography. The improvements were basic: better quality food, more chairs and storage space.

Approximately 38,000 asylum seekers live in Israel today, most of them escaping oppressive regimes or genocidal in Eritrea and Sudan, including the Darfur region.

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September 2017