Islelanders

Mubarak Mahmud, a Somali asylum seeker, reads the Koran in the mosque at the Marsa Open Centre in Malta during Ramadan on August 2, 2013. The Marsa Open Centre houses around 500 male residents from 19 different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mubarak Mahmud, a Somali asylum seeker, reads the Koran in the mosque at the Marsa Open Centre in Malta during Ramadan on August 2, 2013.
The Marsa Open Centre houses around 500 male residents from 19 different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

I shot this picture as my contribution to an online feature called “30 Days of Faith”, published by the UNHCR on its website. The feature offered a glimpse into how refugees observe Ramadan so far away from home.

Before taking any pictures, I sat down with Mubarak for an hour or so. We had a long chat about his life story. It was important for me to know who he was. That also gave me the opportunity to build a level of trust. Mubarak had been studying to be a nurse in his native Somalia when al-Shabaab militants tried to forcibly recruit him. Fearing for his safety, he fled through Ethiopia and Sudan to Libya, where he paid for a place on a smuggler’s boat to Malta.

He was eventually granted humanitarian protection by the authorities and now works as a freelance translator in the centre where he lived on his arrival. Every sunset during Ramamdan, Mubarak would join more than 100 other asylum-seekers in the island’s main mosque for a free Ramadan meal offered by the Islamic Centre. Mubarak dreams of being able to return one day to Somalia to work as a doctor.

When we then went to the mosque at the Marsa open centre, he asked his colleagues if they minded me taking some pictures. I had to work quietly, discreetly and respectfully. I asked Mubarak to forget I was there, and to behave and do the things he would normally do every day at the mosque. It was classic fly on the wall stuff.

Canon EOS-1D X
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
Focal length 16mm
Manual exposure
Shutter 1/80sec
Aperture f/8
ISO 1250

 

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