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PHOTOPAPER 19 – Sonja Hamad nominated by Dieter Neubert

Sonja Hamad was born in 1986 in Damascus, Syria, to Kurdish Yazidi parents. She studied photography at Ostkreuzschule in Berlin. In 2013 she started the project jin, jiyan, azadi — women, life, freedom. She was able to undertake her documentary work in Northern Iraq
in March 2015, followed by a trip to the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and the PKK in Northern Syria.

They say that 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 are now taking part in the resistance against IS. They give up their old names and choose a new one in an initial act of autonomy and becoming »Haval« — a friend of the others. They risk their lives on behalf of a country that has never existed, yet of which every Kurdish person knows the location of its borders; that narrow strip of a homeland, wild Kurdistan, a mountain and valley, a place 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. Sonja Hamad’s pictures show these young women, almost girls still vulnerable and utterly determined at the same time. Who believe sincerely that they can be stronger than those men by whom they had been suppressed for decades. They all carry their scars like awards. And once in a while, colourful shirts, seeming almost childish, come to the fore from under their uniforms. – Hannah Zufall