Storytelling is a powerful tool that allows us to take a walk in someone else’s shoes and help us understand that there is more that unites us than divide us. Telling the stories of people from refugee backgrounds is vital to improve the understanding of their experiences, change the narrative and eventually mobilise action in support of those seeking sanctuary. Social media and digital platforms have opened up new channels  through which the voices of refugees can be amplified, but representation often swings between portrayals of refugees as a threat or as hopeless, helpless victims. Empowering refugees to tell their own stories is crucial in changing  that narrative.

What makes storytelling ethical and effective, and how can we contribute to a fair and balanced representation of refugees and displaced people? To find out more, join the event with award-winning photographer Robin Hammond organised in partnership by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), IMIX and Witness Change, on Wednesday 16th June, 3-4pm, as part of this year’s Refugee Week festival. 



Robin Hammond

Robin Hammond has dedicated his career to amplifying narratives of marginalised groups through long term visual story telling projects. Career recognition includes the winning of two World Press Photo prizes, the RF Kennedy Journalism Award, six Pictures of the Year International Awards, the W.Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the recipient of six Amnesty International awards for Human Rights journalism and being named by Foreign Policy as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers. He is the founder of Witness Change, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing human rights through visual story telling. 

His work on discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community around the world, Where Love Is Illegal, has become a popular social media campaign. It has been exhibited around the world, featured in many publications including on the cover of Time Magazine and National Geographic. The work led to him addressing the United Nations in 2018 to promote a campaign to end the extrajudicial execution and torture of LGBTQI+ individuals. His work on mental health conditions and neurological disorders, In My World, has been used to influence governments and corporations to consider the rights of some of the most vulnerable members on the planet.Robin is a National Geographic Explorer and contributing photographer. 

Robin is the lead Storyteller of the 1000 Dreams project that seeks to change narratives around migration and displacement through a campaign that will photograph and tell thestories of 1000 refugees across Europe. Forty refugee storytellers from diverse backgrounds living all over Europe, including the UK, have now gone through an intensive storytelling training program with Witness Change. They are receiving mentorship by Robin Hammond and the Witness Change team as they interview and make portraits of other refugees. They all received a stipend for the workshops and for the working they are carrying out now. This process ensures the storytellers are supported through their participation in the campaign and have the ability to author the story of their community, a story told by them, rather than being solely about them.

1000 Dreams Project will be launched on World Refugee Day 2021, stay tuned!

Bnar Sardar

Bnar Sardar, photographer, was born in Kirkuk, Iraq and forced to flee to Iran with her family in 1991. Photography was an early passion for her and as a refugee; she noticed that only male photographers were documenting the conflict in her war-torn country. This was the catalyst that turned her passion for photography into a profession. In 2009, she began working with Metrography Agency, the first Iraqi photography agency.  She currently lives and studies in Bristol, UK and is a freelance photographer for National Media League. With her ever expanding portfolio, she has had group exhibitions in various countries, including the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. Recently UNHCR selected her as the middle-east photojournalist for Rothko Exhibition in Venice (Italy).  Bnar is mong the Storytellers of the “1000 Dreams” project and a Refugee Week 2021 Ambassador.

Luca Lamorte

Luca Lamorte is IOM Global Social Media Officer at IOM, the UN Migration Agency. He completed a Ph.D in International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in 2016. Prior to his current position, he worked for the Kofi Annan Foundation, for the Permanent Mission of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Geneva, and for several Communications Agencies, including Publicis. Luca holds a Master’s Degree in History of Conflicts from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communications and New Media from the same University, and regularly attends courses in digital media, SEOs, visual storytelling offered by the Ninja Academy in Milano and Syracuse University in New York.

Smajo Bešo

Smajo Bešo is an architet, lecturer and researcher at the Newcastle University. At the outbreak of the Bosnian war in 1992 Smajo Beso was growing up in the ethnically mixed village of Barane, above the town of Stolac, eastern Herzegovina. He experienced the occupation of his village by Serbs from the neighbouring Hrgud plateau who, briefly, took control of Stolac. Local Bosniaks (Muslims) and Bosnian-Croats under the Croatian led HVO led to their expulsion, but the situation deteriorated when in April 1993 the HVO, under political direction, imprisoned the Bosniak (Muslim) contingent of its own army, forcibly expelling Bosniaks and Serb civilians under its control. Smajo witnessed the destruction by Croat forces of the historic Ottoman core of Stolac as well as extensive damage to Mostar, including its historic ‘Old Bridge’ (Stari Most), where the family were in internal exile. This systematic destruction of cultural identity and architectural heritage is a subject he is further exploring through his teaching and research at Newcastle University. The family rejected feelings of hate and the temptations of revenge and eventually found refuge in the UK. Smajo grew up in Newcastle and studied architecture at Newcastle University. He worked in private practice for several years before commencing teaching at the university. Smajo has been working to aid cross-cultural and inter-faith understanding rather than fuelling revenge and divergence through the teaching and learning of the Bosnian Genocide for several years. Find out more about Smajo's work here.


For information regarding this event please contact asoleiman@iom.int