Who Waits Will Rejoice
2021 - ongoing
Who Waits Will Rejoice is a long-term photojournalistic project following the life of Amara Kdoe, a teenager from Guinea, who has been on bail for four years, awaiting trial for dubious terrorism and hijacking charges, while struggling in limbo in Malta's notoriously slow justice system, where pending trials date as far back as 2008.
Amara is the youngest of three teenagers who have become known internationally as the El Hiblu 3. The El Hiblu case hit the radar of international human rights organisations when it occurred in 2019, during a context of political ping-pong between Malta and Italy which left numerous ships with rescued refugees waiting at sea for weeks on end.
Amara, Kader and Abdalla were arrested after acting as translators between a merchant ship captain – who, by EU law, was ordered to rescue the sinking dinghy the three were on along with over 120 others – and the rescued asylum-seekers. The NGOs, including Amnesty International, have repeatedly called for all charges to be dropped after no evidence of violence or weapons were found, arguing that the three only helped to calm down the situation and pleaded to not be sent back to Libya.
Within a context of racism, every day Amara has to live his life in an extraordinary and Kafka-esque state of limbo: feeling himself perceived a a terrorist, and buckling under the unknown of where his fate lies – in fulfilling his dreams of a life in Europe, or within the walls of Malta’s prison cells. This slow wheel of justice becomes an injustice in itself.
With access and trust built over time, and with open conversation with Amara, through photographs and interviews, my project slowly follows the vulnerable teenager through this overwhelming situation, which makes him feels imprisoned both mentally and physically, and who has to struggle and battle with his own self-perception while imprisoned in a country that has labelled him a terrorist.
Besides throwing a spotlight on a story and providing a humanising angle to a teenager who has been labelled a 'terrorist' by an EU state, what lies at the story's heart is the slowness of a court system that makes the accused feel like their lives are “being played with”.
The project also touches upon the overarching element of the treatment and life of refugees living in vulnerability at the frontline of migration from Libya, within an increasingly politically-racist Europe, a decade after the "migration crisis".