It is said that death at the hands of a woman prevents a martyr from entering paradise. Approximately one third of all the Kurdish fighters in Rojava, the de facto autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria, are women. Fuelled by a passion for their homeland and love for their families and people, these women have taken up arms against Islamic State (IS). Their recent victories include recapturing the city of Kobane and rescuing the Yazidi minority in Sindscha from genocide.
But these women are not only fighting IS, they are also fighting patriarchal traditions that have suppressed them for centuries. The conflict in Syria has opened up new opportunities to effect social change and these women are determined to seize them. As Abdullah Öcalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), stated, “The land cannot be free when women are not free.”
Who? Sonja Hamad
Docking February 6 - 26
Working on »Jin – Jiyan – Azadi« Women, Life, Freedom
About female Kurdish freedom fighters
The documentary photographer Sonja Hamad was born in 1986 in Damascus, Syria, to Kurdish Yazidi parents. At the age of three, the family flew to Germany due to political reasons.
In 2013 she started the project “Jin, Jian, Azadi – Women, Life, Freedom – which was explicitly intended to be political. Based of contacts stemming from her portrait-project and aided by a scholarship from the VG Bildkunst, she was able to start her documentary in Northern Iraq in March 2015 followed by a trip to the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in Northern Syria, a second stay in September 2015 and a third journey at the end of November 2016.
Founder & director at Photocaptionist
"IS’s persecution of women is a known fact. They are considered inhumane beings without rights and freedom, IS kidnapped many of them, sold them as sex slaves on markets, raped them, and even beheaded them. But what do we know about female Kurdish fighters?
Sonja Hamad’s project is necessary. As simple as that. As a Syria born Kurd, based in Germany, she managed to establish strong relationships with female Kurdish fighters in Rojava (Western Kurdistan). Their common cultural background allowed her to immerse in aspects of their lives never touched upon before and to gather impressions of their living conditions, in all their complexities and individualities. Unafraid of death and fulfilled by their passion for their homeland and their love for their families and people, these women muster up the courage to face the heavily armed IS in Syria. Hamad’s incredible portraits and cityscapes document the living environment of these women and the war sites.
The first project to be entirely devoted to the female Kurdish freedom fighters of the YPJ, as well as the Kurdish guerillas, it reveals their brave and powerful refusal to succumb."