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Based in Iraq

MAYHEM TO UNKNOWN

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    Ahmed Moneka, 25, takes a selfie with his family during his mother's birthday party in Baghdad, Iraq on March 21, 2015. This young Iraqi man was born in the southern city of Basra to an art embracing family.
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    Ahmed performs in a show called "Solitary" with two of his friends.
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    Ahmed has a stressful conversation with the director prior to a performance of the show "Solitary".
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    Ahmed has a heated conversation with the director prior to a performance.
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    Ahmed gets his make-up done prior to a performance.
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    Actors pose for a portrait in the dressing room.
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    Ahmed Moneka poses for the camera after make-up and getting into character.
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    Actors and crew members prepare for a performance in the final minutes before the show's start.
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    Cast members perform in a production of "Solitary".
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    Ahmed performs on stage.
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    Ahmed performs during a production of "Solitary".
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    Ahmed performs alongside two other cast members on stage during a production of "Solitary".
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    Audience members greet and congratulate performers after the show.
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    Ahmed and his brothers light fireworks to celebrate their mother's birthday.
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    Ahmed's mother enjoys fireworks lit by her children to celebrate her birthday at home.
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    Ahmed's mother is emotional on her birthday surrounded by family.
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    Ahmed's younger sister congratulates their mother on her birthday.
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    Ahmed performs on stage during a production at a theater.
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    Mohammed Moneka, Ahmed's older brother, poses for a portrait. Mohammed is an actor and director who fled Iraq and is now living in Austria.
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    People walk through the streets of Baghdad, Iraq on May 12, 2015. This view overlooking the Haifa Street intersection, is viewed from the Moneka family balcony. This area witnessed heavy sectarian violence in 2006.
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    Tara Moneka, Ahmed's younger sister, a singer, auditions on Skype for the Lebanon-based Arab version of The Voice.
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    Ahmed trains for a play that will be performed in Tunisia, on Aug. 20, 2015. Before the show premiered, Ahmed was fired from his acting career for participating in a protest against corruption, and left the country.
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    Ahmed Moneka trains for a play that will be performed in Tunisia.
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    Ahmed sits with his sister and sings near a window that had been pierced by a bullet during the sectarian conflicts.
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    Alongside a group of actors, Ahmed Moneka participates in a protest against corruption held in Tahrir Square, central Baghdad, Iraq. Due to his participation in the protest he is fired from his acting career, and days later leaves the country.
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    Ahmed Moneka sits alone in his room and plays with his cellphone.
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    Photos of the Moneka family are on display in the family home in Baghdad.
Mayhem to Unknown

This is a story about young Iraqis for whom a future in Iraq is not worth pursuing. Ahmed Moneka is one of those young people. After years of struggling to build a meaningful life and career in a country ridden with corruption, Ahmed was forced to leave Iraq, the only home he had ever known. He joined the wave of migration that swept away many young Iraqis looking for a promised land that would provide a better life and future.

Ahmed was born to an artistic family with roots tracing back to Kenya. He received a Fine Arts degree from the University of Baghdad and found his calling in drama. With a father and younger brother who also pursued a career in acting, he found inspiration and support through his family, who encouraged him to pursue an artistic path in life. Striving to be the best in his craft, Ahmed set his sights on the Iraqi National Theatre. His success in performing on this prestigious stage many, many times are a testament to his hard work and talent.

Iraq has witnessed many periods of strife in recent memory and Ahmed was among countless Iraqis affected by the violence and corruption that have plagued his country. He, alongside thousands of his compatriots, had had enough and decided to take action.

Alongside dozens of like-minded young people, Ahmed protested regularly against corruption in Iraq’s government. His optimism for the way his country could be propelled him to criticize the things that stood in the path of positive change. In one of the weekly protests, he pounded the drums in a fast, heart-racing rhythm to entertain and rally those around him. Against all odds, he remained hopeful, with a vision for a better Iraq.

But that fragile hope was shattered when the government-run National Theatre stripped Ahmed of his freedom of speech because he protested against corruption. They refused to allow him to perform any longer, leaving Ahmed unable to express his thoughts and feelings through theatre. Faced with this dilemma, Ahmed felt that the only avenue left to him was to leave his home and begin anew in a faraway place.

Ahmed immigrated to Canada, where he has now settled. His two brothers, Mahmoud and Mohammed took a more perilous approach, braving the sea and arduous hikes on the path to Europe. They eventually settled in Austria.

Ahmed always wanted more than just finding shelter and a government pension to get him by. In a bittersweet turn of events, he has finally been able to satisfy his thirst for freedom and creativity now that he has left his home. Ahmed hopes to take what he has learned from being forced to leave his home to help others achieve what he couldn’t back in Iraq. Now a photographer, Ahmed aims to use his artistic vision to support new humanitarian efforts.

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