A few months after the liberation of Kobanî—the Syrian city that lies on the northern border with Turkey—many families have started to come back to what is left of their houses. With the hope of rebuilding their life and their city, they clean their houses of dead bodies and bury the fighters who lost their lives.

Of course, the war is still going on, raging not far from the slowly regenerating city.

Part of my story was to focus on Kurdish women fighters. This is a group whose battle is not only against the Islamic State but also, in part, to prove their role in a male-dominated society. The more I spent time with the women of different age groups and backgrounds, the more I realized the significance of this project.

After the liberation of Kobanî, many cameras were pointed towards those women and began attracting attention of many—but sadly I realized that not many people knew about the history of their involvement in previous battle grounds (as if during the war in Syria, they had picked up a gun for the first time!). This was my motivation to carry on the project in Kobanî—to document this remarkable point in history as well as the liberation of a city that is one of the first to be freed from ISIS.

The 35 days I spent there was an unforgettable experience. Seeing people returning to what was left of their homes was sobering but encouraging as well. The story of Kobanî is not only about the war and its horrific consequences but also the story of the power of humanity, courage, and solidarity.

—Maryam Ashrafi

Editors’ Note: We first discovered this story on Social Documentary Network (SDN). To see more great visual stories like this, be sure to visit their website as well as check out their recently launched magazine, ZEKE.