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Congresswoman Waters Highlights Plight of Iraqi Refugees

July 30, 2009
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) highlighted the Iraqi refugee crisis by co-hosting a photo exhibit this evening on Capitol Hill with Reps. Alcee Hastings, Barbara Lee, and Lynn Woolsey.  The exhibit featured the work of Gabriela Bulisova, a documentary film photographer and adjunct professor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design who recently returned from Iraq and Syria, where she captured images of Iraqi refugees. 

Moved by the power of Ms. Bulisova's photos, Congresswoman Waters applauded her for putting a human face on this humanitarian crisis.  "It is said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words', but today, Gabriela's pictures represent the words of the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes by the violence tormenting Iraq," Congresswoman Waters said.

More than 5 million Iraqis – 1 in 5 of the entire country's population – are now either displaced within Iraq or living abroad as refugees according to the International Organization for Migration.

Noting that Ms. Bulisova believes in "art's vital potential for education, influence and change", Congresswoman Waters emphasized the importance of taking that final step – changing U.S. policy in order to meet the needs of Iraqi refugees.

"Many Iraqi refugees express no hope of ever being able to return to their homes, and hopelessness is a recipe for disaster.  It is long past time for the United States to mobilize our considerable diplomatic and humanitarian resources to assist the displaced population of Iraq," said Congresswoman Waters, who recently introduced legislation on this issue.

The Recovery and Stability of Iraq Act (H.R. 5488) addresses the growing crisis of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons by creating an Iraqi Displacement Coordinator in the Executive Office of the President.  The high-level Coordinator would lead the U.S. effort to work with Iraq and other regional actors to create a long-term, comprehensive, and durable strategy to solve the displacement crisis. 

In addition to the Members of Congress who spoke at the event tonight, Ken Bacon, President of Refugees International (RI), updated the audience on this humanitarian crisis. RI recently released a report entitled, "Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq." 

Ms. Aseel Albanna, an Iraqi-American who was born and raised in Baghdad and is the Co-Founder and Coordinator of Iraqi Voices for Peace, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping meet the basic human needs of Iraqi refugees and displaced persons, also spoke.

More information about photographer Gabriela Bulisova is available at