Thursday, 11 April 2013

GUEST POST: Stories of Statelessness - Burma, the Dominican Republic and Kenya

What would you do if you were a citizen of no country? If the place you were born disavowed your tie there? For the 12 million people who are stateless worldwide, this struggle for a homeland and all the rights that being a citizen somewhere entails, is all too real. Stateless people are not quite refugees; they may have lived in a country for generations, but they are denied citizenship and rights by governments who insist they belong somewhere else. Yet this global crisis is under-reported in mainstream outlets. For photographer Greg Constantine, statelessness "is one of the most complex, politically sensitive and devastating human rights issues most people don’t know about.”

In the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting iBook In Search of Home, Constantine and reporter Stephanie Hanes teamed up to try to shed light on a global phenomenon. They examined statelessness in Kenya, Burma and the Dominican Republic, mixing interactive maps, photography and reporting to create an immersive experience.

One story they tell in the iBook is from the Dominican Republic, where Haitian immigrants have forged a home working in the DR’s now-collapsed sugar industry.  The work can be dangerous (sugar cane is so sharp, it can cut through human skin) with meager pay. For three generations, these workers have raised families in the Dominican Republic, but even their children who are Dominican-born with identities more Dominican than Haitian, are denied full citizenship.  

In the Dominican Republic, to be born on the nation’s land (jus soli or “right of soil”) is not enough for citizenship – you must be jus sanguinis or “right of blood.” The country’s law, Circular 17, enacted in 2007 and based on jus sanguinis, obfuscates the stateless sugar workers’ ability to get an education and a job. Even a name is an indication of “otherness.” Constantine and Hanes interviewed one woman, Jean Joseph, a bright student of Haitian descent with a Dominican birth certificate, who cannot go to law school because the Dominican government will not issue her the necessary documents due to her “funny” last name. 

Because of the complex realities of statelessness, Bangkok-based Constantine felt strongly about the need to extend past the limits of traditional journalism. “Because I believe so much in the importance of the stories I work on, I refuse to accept the limitations of traditional publishing these days, which is why we have to explore as many creative and strategic ways for getting the work out there as possible. I think the possibilities to tell robust, multi-dimensional stories through e-books are endless.”

Hanes agrees: "The e-book format allows for far more nuance and background information than a traditional print piece. There is an ability to truly incorporate photos, maps, and historical information. Overall, it allows for an excitingly textured new way of story-telling.”

The resulting iBook is a work that uses design to inform and raise awareness about statelessness, where the stories of aspiring Haitian-Dominican baseball players are seamlessly woven with photographs of children playing in abandoned sugar cane fields. Subsequently, the lives of women like Jean Joseph come alive through a tapestry of words and photographs in a project that was recently named one of the best Tablet/Mobile Delivery projects of the year by the National Press Photographers Association.

The iBook is part of a larger effort at the Pulitzer Center to increase media literacy and awareness of global issues, while creating new income streams for independent journalists who cover these crucial stories. In Search of Home is available for purchase in the iTunes store.

By Caroline D’Angelo and Jennifer Nguyen for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting


About the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting:  The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting supports in-depth coverage of international affairs, focusing on topics that have been under-reported or not reported at all. Its honors include an Emmy for new approaches to news and documentaries and awards from the National Press Foundation, the National Press Club, and the Society of Professional Journalists. The Center’s education programs engage directly with high school and university students, building a constituency among younger audiences for quality global news coverage. To learn more, please visit

1 comment:

  1. Dear Greg Constantine i apritiate your report regarding stateless peoples burma and dominica but i want to point out stateless people in pakistan these people don't have right of citizenship , i am one of these people i am born in pakistan but i live without citizenship i want to you research and publish.