Seeing the MENA region through a new lens

The power of images is important to consider in how we shape our views of other countries (especially if it's a place we've not yet seen for ourselves!). Think of the recent reactions to the viral photo of the young Syrian refugee, washed ashore in Turkey, to the intense photos of starving refugees in Madaya just last week. These powerful images stick with us, and help to create a mental image of this region of the world. To add to the heartbreak, there is the constant background stock imagery of bombs, turbans, terror, and fear that are almost always present to accompany any news coming out of the Middle East.It's helpful to have other resources to turn to in order to create a more balanced overall picture. Think even of your local paper-- do the headlines represent the city you know and are familiar with? Or might your daily sights and sounds provide better context for these news-worthy events? Thankfully, social media platforms provide this personal window into peoples and places far away, and can help us restore this sense of balance. Explore the following four Instagram accounts and see how these images fit alongside what's reported in the news. There are hundreds more accounts to choose from, this is just to get you started!

  • Stories of Iran, photos by Gilda Gazor. Read this interview in AFAR Magazine to learn her motivation behind the account.
  • Everyday Middle East, photos by 23 different contributors all over the region.
  • Matthew Cassel, based in Istanbul but also features photos from his travels. Recently documented very moving images of refugees. You can find his photojournalist work and more visual stories at his website.
  • Magical Arabia, a "wow-factor" photo is chosen daily from user-submitted images.

Do these photos surprise you? Move you? Or maybe they confirm what you already know-- that while there are terrifying, heartbreaking events going on, there is also daily life weaving its way through and around these events.

Thanks to Your Middle East and Al Monitor for suggestions.
Image credits: Crowne Plaza (Maastricht) and AFAR Magazine/Gilda Gazor.