Throughout history Kurdish women peshmerga have been fighting shoulder to shoulder with men to gain their rights as Kurds and as women.
Today we see them in the front line fight against ISIS. As women they are more aware of the threat of such groups for women and believe if they want to have more right in a free society they need to be next to men from the very beginning to prove that they are also aware of the threat and can be count on for fighting for such cause.
What drew me to this subject two years ago was the role of women within the Kurdish military forces and guerrilla factions.
Their battle, I believe, is harder than that of their male counterparts, as they are not only fighting for their basic rights as Kurds, but also as women, in societies that are heavily male-dominated. I wanted to know more about the part women played in progressive political parties like the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, The Komala Party or the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (known as PJAK). I also wanted to see what motivated them, what pushed these women to leave their homes and join often remote and dangerous units. What were their hopes and what were the difficulties they had had to overcome – not just politically but also personally and culturally. Early age marriage; domestic violence; female circumcision; and access to education were some of the common problems they refereed to and hoped to be able to solve these by being part of the solution in such societies.
Maryam Ashrafi (www.maryamashrafi.com) is a freelance photojournalist based in Paris. she was born in 1982 and after receiving her BA in Social documentary photography from the university of Wales, Newport she moved to Paris. Her most recent project on Kurdish women fighters, started in late 2012 and since then she has travelled few times to photograph the women fighters in different political group in Kurdistan (Iraq).
For her, photography as a universal language is a tool which helps her to portray the life of those living in difficult political and social situations, those who try to make differences and make some changes. In doing so each of those people she met had left a big impression on her and motivates her to carry on this journey.