jean marc bouju

IRAQ. Najaf governorate. Near Najaf. March 31, 2003. An Iraqi man comforts his four-year-old son at a holding centre for prisoners of war, in the base camp of the US Army 101st Airborne Division. The boy had become terrified when his father was hooded and handcuffed. Hoods were placed over detainees’ heads because they were quicker to apply than blindfolds, according to the military. Bags were also used to disorientate prisoners and to protect their identities. It is not known what happened to the man or his son. After pictures from Abu Ghraib emerged, the military quickly changed their methods and decided to use blindfolds again.

“Ten years ago. I doubt the desert remembers the barbed wire and hooded, shackled prisoners. Does it at least remember the screams of a boy clinging to a father who mumbled words of comfort from beneath a black sandbag? I hope the desert, too, felt relieved when an American soldier cut off the plastic handcuffs, and the man could finally embrace his child. But this desert has seen so much since the beginning of civilization that I do not think this was a remarkable day. This is not even a particularly noticeable war in the context of Iraq’s 5,000 years of history. But for me, this moment endures. The whole scene was surreal. This image was one of the last of my career. Three months later, I was disabled in a car accident. My daughter was the same age as the child in this photo. I look at her today and wonder what happened to that boy. I wonder why we were at war. What was accomplished? Ten years [in 2013]. An army of dead, wounded and mentally destroyed people. Maybe they, too, are wondering: why? I remember, and I wonder.”

World Press Photo of the Year 2003.

Photograph: Jean-Marc Bouju/AP   

Taken by Jean-Marc Bouju, this image from the Iraqi war both shocked and touched the world. The prisoner and his son were being held at a US army base camp and the father had been hooded and hand-cuffed. The boy was terrified by the sight and the man’s hands were later freed to enable him to comfort his son. The image was awarded the 2003 World Press Photo of  the year.