MAG frontline staff feature in a new Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire exhibition launching today at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) North in Manchester.

Since 1989, MAG has helped over 19 million people in 68 countries rebuild their lives and livelihoods after war.

The Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire exhibition, which forms part of the IWM’s Refugees season, highlights the practical, emotional and ethical challenges faced by the aid workers working with organisations like MAG on the front lines of conflict zones.

IWM North museum in Salford Quays

The exhibition includes a display of objects, photographs and filmed interviews with aid workers, including with one of MAG’s Community Liaison Supervisors in Iraq, Sizar Issa Yassen, recorded specially for the exhibition.

This innovative new exhibition will make decision making its focus while using individual experiences to tell a global story. Combining personal ‘in the field’ testimonies with scenario-based interactives, visitors will be encouraged to think about how they might respond to situations faced daily by aid workers, learning about the difficult choices and compromises that often precede an outcome.

Sizar Issa Yassen, 34, has worked with MAG in Iraq for 4 years and works closely with the demining teams clearing the landmines, improvised mines and explosive remnants of a catalogue of conflicts stretching from the 1980s through to the most recent ISIS occupation.

Sizar working with refugees in Iraq

MAG began its work in Iraq in 1992, and since 2015 has been clearing the deadly legacy left behind in areas formerly held by ISIS. In these areas, MAG has made safe 27,500,000 square metres of contaminated land, found and destroyed over 17,000 mines, unexploded bombs and other explosives, and delivered mine risk education sessions to over 400,000 people.

A recent documentary, Into The Fire, by Oscar-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel, focuses on the efforts of one of MAG’s demining teams in the region.

Happy moments for me are when I see the happiness in people’s eyes after their areas have been made safe and they are living in peace

About his work, Sizar says, in testimony specially recorded for the exhibition; 

Happy moments for me are when I see the happiness in people’s eyes after their areas have been made safe and they are living in peace. And rebuilding their houses after they were destroyed, reopening their shops after they’ve been forced to abandon them and seeing the kids able to play in playgrounds and public spaces again. Before, there was no life in these areas and no one can live in it. Now, life is back to these areas.”

Darren Cormack, MAG’s CEO, says:

"MAG staff across the world, on the frontlines of developing conflicts and clearing up the deadly legacies of wars long passed, are the lifeblood of our humanitarian mission. Whether clearing landmines and unexploded bombs or reducing the threat of armed conflict MAG staff like Sizar face, often unimaginable, challenges carrying out their work. But it is their connection to the communities in which they work that drives them to achieve incredible results, despite the challenges of a global pandemic, an increasing threat of violence against aid workers and the risks of working in conflict zones.”

Amanda Mason, Senior Curator, Contemporary Conflict at IWM, says:

“By presenting the experiences of aid workers, many of whom are displaced themselves, alongside digital, scenario-based interactives, this exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to explore the choices they would make if faced with similar circumstances. Highlighting the very real consequences of decision making, we hope that the participatory nature of this exhibition reveals how ethically challenging it is to work with displaced people in conflict zones.”

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Watch Sizar's testimony to the Aid Workers exhibition

Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire is part of Refugees, a free season of exhibitions, artistic commissions and immersive events taking place across IWM London and IWM North in 2020 and 2021. The exhibition at IWM North runs from 2 October 2020 to 31 May 2021.