" Jin - Jiyan - Azadi " (women, life, freedom)
Project info

They say that the death by a woman’s hand blocks the way to paradise for potential martyrs. That might be the case since more and more Kurdish women take part in the resistance against IS now. They give up their old names choosing a new one in an initial act of autonomy and becoming all »Haval«– a friend of the others.
The project »Jin – Jiyan – Azadi« Women, Life, Freedom attempts to trace sensitively the collective longings held by the Kurdish freedom fighters. In that course, not only the individual traits of these women are captured, but it is also shown what it is that connects their destinies. At the same time, pictures became possible that uncover a view on their environment; in the poetic way that the Kurdish culture contains within itself. Such as the view on Kobane, having become a ghost city in a lot of its part; where buildings are often only carried by memories, where walls are shot to pieces; where empty window frames show lost spaces. A ragged cosiness that appears to be melancholic in all this destruction.
Shot and reverse shot, not understood as militant act governing the life of the female fighters so often, but rather as photographic perspectives. And then, a bridge between the photographer and the fighters emerges.
And so, this project by its documentary involvement shows women who have to lead a brutal fight against the monstrously operative IS. They are risking their lives on behalf of a country that has yet never existed and, though, of which every Kurdish knows where its borders were located; this narrow strip of a homeland, the wild Kurdistan, a mountain and valley spot of longing, that gets attacked from every angle. However, it is not only about their survival, but more about a self-determined existence, about their freedom and independence. This fight for deliverance has an existential note to it.
There is bombing during the night, one feels the detonations, no one sleeps, and yet the fight goes on the upcoming day.
If one of them dies, the others mourn only one day. The comrades shoot with their Kalashnikovs in the air to honour her, on a sparse cemetery, where only plastic flowers can blossom. The hazards and losses are real, but there is no time left to process them. When the fighters are frightened, they sing it away. And even while grieving for a comrade killed in action they are singing.
These are the moments that are fragile as well as beautiful, moments where brutality meets poetry.
Yet, as soon as this war will be won, one of the »mountain’s daughters« states, the real fight just begins.
Since the threat comes from the outside by IS incursions and from the inside. The fight for deliverance is equally directed toward old social tradition by which they are still suppressed. Within this no-man’s-land they are living in right now, they are outlawed, but in the Kurdish tradition in which they were growing up, they remained without rights too. Now, the emergency situation opens up for them the possibility to change something. These are the women who have to lose the least and to gain the most.
Sonja Hamad’s pictures show these young women, almost girls still being vulnerable and utterly determined at the same time. And who believe deeply that they can be stronger than those men by which they had been suppressed for decades. They all carry their scars like awards. And once in a while, colourful shirts striking as almost childish come to the fore under their uniforms.

— Hannah Zufall