Iman: Supermodel, Activist, Refugee

The world knows Iman as a supermodel, a successful businesswoman with her own cosmetics company and as a fashion icon alongside her husband David Bowie.

That’s only half the story. Iman also is a refugee whose family fled war in Somalia. In this exclusive interview in honor of International Women’s Day, Iman shares her incredible story of leaving Somalia for Kenya, being discovered by a fashion photographer, and finding global fame.

On International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the achievements of women and raise awareness of ongoing injustices against women, Iman’s success story is poignant, especially in light of the causes she fights for.

"Iman has been a fierce advocate for the rights of women and children in Africa and around the world. Her own experience as a refugee and a mother has deepened her commitment to contributing to a world where violence against women and girls is one day a thing of the past," notes Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast.

Iman is a Global Ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, raising awareness and funds to help African families affected by HIV/AIDS.

She was instrumental in the campaign against blood diamonds, terminating her contract with diamond giant DeBeers in protest over the diamond industry’s abuses in Africa.

Iman is speaking up for the Congo as well, helping the Enough Project’s “Raise Hope for Congo” campaign spread the word about the new blood diamonds: “conflict minerals” from the Congo.

As Iman and John discuss in the video, the deadliest war in the world is raging in the Congo right now. Over five million people have died, but that’s just part of the horror.

John Prendergast and Iman talk during an interview for the Enough Project

John Prendergast talks to Iman in her New York City office. (Photo: Robert Padavick/Enough)

Congo is the world’s most dangerous place for women and girls. Armed groups are using mass rape as a tactic of war as they compete to control Congo’s lucrative mineral wealth: tin, tantalum, tungsten (the “three Ts”) and gold.

Why are these minerals so coveted?

Cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and other devices wouldn’t work them. Armed groups make an estimated $150 million yearly from the conflict minerals trade. It’s a simple supply and demand equation, and it’s fueling the worst violence since the Holocaust.

The good news is, we have the power to help end it.

We as consumers must speak up and demand that the top electronics companies produce conflict-free products. By removing conflict minerals from the equation in Congo, we remove the fuel from the fire.

To help, visit the Raise Hope for Congo take action page, where you can send a personal email to the top electronics companies.

A full transcript of the interview can be found here.

Video directed and produced by Robert Padavick. Filming, editing and animation by Ivan Kander.