Alessandro Rota is an Italian photographer who has braved war conditions in West Asia to cover the violence that has torn the region apart. Shubhda Chaudhary caught up with him on email for an interview. Excerpts:

Q.How difficult is to be a photojournalist in war-torn and conflict-prone areas?

A. It is a constant threat that we have to face nowadays. Our role as independent news gatherers is not recognized anymore; we have become targets of regimes and terrorists organizations. Conflict areas are very challenging and difficult environments to work in; just as an examples, in the last two trips to Iraq I got shot 4 mortars by ISIS/Daesh while reporting on frontlines but you have to deal with such kind of things if you want to get the story out. Another big issue of the contemporary media industry is the fact that a lot of risks are run by young freelancers who have no other option than to budget every single expense: we are covering expenses out of our pockets and when it like this, we all know that sometimes you compromise on your own security. I am very thankful to the Rory Peck Trust because they supported my security training few years ago, as a freelancer I simply couldn’t afford it.

Q.How is Iraq different from the other war stories that you reported?

A.Iraq now is a pretty active hotspot. Frontlines are pretty stable but there is so much suffering and ethnic hate going on in the country that it really affected me. That war is becoming very dirty and it won’t be over soon unfortunately.

Q.How do you predict the political future of Iraq?

A.I cannot predict the future but the situation is very tense now. In the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region (KRG) where I have worked the most, public sector employee have not being paid for more than five months due to the economic crisis generated by the drop of the oil price on the international market and the high-costs involved in the war to terrorism; this is not helping at all the political stability that the country needs. President Barzani (of KRG) has asked for a referendum to make KRG independent from the central Government of Baghdad; this could be an enormous challenge for the country as a whole.

Q.How do you connect with the locals without knowing Arabic?

A.It is my big shame not to talk either Arabic or Kurdish; I am trying to learn it but for the moment I rely on a good network of trusted translator and fixers. They our “angels” on the ground who make our work possible even when I have very little time beacuse of a deadline.

Q.You have captured the subject of Yazdis. What’s your take on it?

A. Yazidis are an incredible community; you feel a sense of history while you talk with their members about traditions and believes: it was a very powerful experience. Unfortunately, they are a minority counting only 2 million people world-wide; this made them a target of the killing machine of ISIS/Daesh who committed a genocide against their community in Sinjar. In just one night more than 5200 people either got killed or simply disappeared: it was moving to photograph the mass-graves, especially the ones where older women who were killed because they could not be sold at the market for ISIS fighters. The European Community has now officiallyrecognized the genocide but it is not enough; yazidis claims an international army to protect them as they don’t trust anymore local militias or armed groups: this gives you the scale of the atrocities that are committed nowadays in Iraq and how the social fabric has deteriorated.

Q. Aren’t you scared of the ISIS while reporting?

A. Of course I am. I don’t want to end up with an orange suit in front a camera. Images of colleagues being slaughtered for the ISIS/Daesh propaganda machine doesn’t fade that easily from my mind.

Q.What are your views regarding Kurdistan?

A.It is a very interesting and promising land habited by extremely welcoming people. The independent movement now it growing incredibly and in Iraq (South-Kurdistan) and Syria (East-Kurdistan) things are settling down a litlle bit but in Turkey (North-Kurdistan) there is a war going on with very little media attention. Of course the Ankara Government opposes to an independent Kurdistan with all the means that they have but the situation is really escalating and it is very difficult to predict what the future will reserve. In Iran (West-Kurdistan) )I reckon is the place where it is most difficult to thing of an independent kurdish region for now.

Q.How is the political climate different between Iran and Iraq?

A.Iraq is a war-torn country with a difficult past and an uncertain future; Iran, now that the sanctions from the International Community has been lifted, has a very promising future of development and the last elections seems to give a little bit of hope to the population.

Q. Tell us something about Sinjar in Iraq?

A. Sinjar was a massacre, a genocide: I am not saying it, it is the European Union that has officially recognized it. The place has become extremely political and civilian life wont’t be back to the city for a long time. Now, I believe it necessary to address the responsibilities of such tremendous level of disrespect for human lives.

Q.Aren’t you scared for your life during such journalistic trips?

A.Indeed I am. I am just a human being like everyone else in this world. I simply have decided to cope with fear and stress to do my job and I am sincerely thankful to all my special friends that support me while on travel.