In the small rural villages of Choman, Sabadin, Zale, Shlake, people have been moving indiscriminately across checkpoints and borderlands for centuries. Aram Karim´s images offer a glimpse inside a world that has rarely been documented before.


As one looks at the vastness of the mountainous landscapes in Aram Karim’s images, it is difficult to discern where the border between Iraq and Iran, or Iraq and Syria, is. Here, at the edges of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where borders hold a profound meaning - given the many conflicts that have been fought over them - the frontier is perceived by its inhabitants as a land of its own, above any institutional division or political rule.

For generations, smuggling goods across these borderlands has represented the main source of income, if not the only one, for many people living here, and bribes are paid reularly to the boarder guards in order to keep the peculiar economy alive.

Iraqi photographer Aram Karim, born in the village of Saraw near the Iranian border, has grown up among the smugglers. Over a period of five years, he has been mingling among them as they embarked on journeys across the mountains to bring gasoline, tires, televisions, alcohol, and all sorts of other goods from one side to the other, often risking their lives in the minefields that still haunt these lands.