This is an extended edit of a deep documentary project on Joanna, the Danish-Kurdish Peshmerga soldier. The original project was named a finalist in the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2015. Discover more inspiring work from all of the winners and finalists.

Joanna Palani, 22, was born in an Iraqi refugee camp in 1993 after her parents fled from Kurdish Iran. In 1996, her family managed to escape to Denmark where Joanna grew up in the peaceful countryside. Thus, Joanna was raised as a refugee in Denmark. She attended school there, learned Danish, had friends—a “normal life.” But seven months ago, she dropped out of high school to join the fight against the Islamic State.

Now, she’s fighting side by side with the Kurdish guerilla army against ISIS.

“Let me be honest. Some times, when we’ve been shot at, I’ve prayed to God and promised myself that I would travel back to Denmark and live a normal life if I just survived this moment,” Joanna Palani says. But by April 2015, she still hasn’t fulfilled that promise. For Joanna, the Kurdish war again ISIS is more important.

These pictures were taken in April 2015 in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Joanna fought on a frontline south of Erbil. As of today, she’s back in Denmark. But only for a brief moment—if she gets her way, she will soon be returning to Iraq or Syria to continue the fight.

—Asger Ladefoged, for Berlingske