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The forgotten people of Kurdistan

Giacomo Sini | Turkey; Syria; Iraq

A position of Kurdish snipers on the south eastern Kobane's frontline against ISIS. March 2015

When in 2014 I heard about the Islamic State’s siege on Shingal in Iraq and later on the Kurdish city of Kobane, in northern Syria, I got really scared about Kurds’ fate in these areas. In October 2014, I therefore flew to Turkey and started to follow the situation on the border with Syria. In that days, I began to live, in some tents with some Yazidis escaped in August from Iraq and people fled from Kobane. Shortly after the liberation of Kobane, I took the decision to enter in the destroyed city. That’s where came the idea of developing a long-term visual project about the difficult life of Kurds and their brother in language , the Yazidis. A project which will run until April of 2017, when a great part of Kobane’s population could return to the city and some Yazidis decided to get back to Iraq, despite the tense situation. A project which attempted to bring together the photographic evidence of an entire community in constant troubles within different areas.

I’ve always been attracted to the Middle East and its cultural particularities. Since I was 18 I have constantly traveled to this area of the world. During some of my wanderings I started to share some stories of life with the various Kurdish communities met within territories I’ve passed by . Since I was a child I had a strong bond to these communities. This is mainly due to personal friendships with some Kurds stabilized in Italy who told me the vicissitudes of their own people.
The Kurds, after the end of World War I, were divided within the creation of new borders and nation states, dictated by the victors of the conflict. Some of them, abruptly separated by a boundary line created by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, have been always living the suffering of fragmentation. The territory of Kurdistan, is indeed now divided between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. In many of my travels there, I have often been generously welcomed by Kurdish families and their brothers in language, the Ezidis’ religious minority; with them I always breathed an atmosphere of tranquility and deep vitality, giving an intense meaning to every meeting; between 2013 and 2015 this “inner peace”, especially in Syria and Iraq, has been suddenly broken by ISIS militants.
While I was watching some images of the struggle between Kurdish militias and Jihadists, shoot from an hill facing Rojava in Turkish territories where I was a few years before, I immediately thought of returning to Kurdistan: It was a need and a duty at the same time.
Living in Kobane for some days in 2014 has helped me to start thinking on develop a long-term visual project about Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey and their brother in language, the Yazidi population, until 2017.
A project which attempted to bring together the photographic evidence, gathered during the span of three years, of an entire community in constant troubles. This is how I tried to tell through a sort of "visual journey" what Kurdish and Yazidis people has seen right before their eyes in their wanderings: from the war front in the south of Kobane, until the desolation of the city itself, then passing through Anatolia, until the informal refugees camps in Greece where people use to dry clothes on the fences of borders and then the way back to Iraq of lot of them, trying to focus on the passing of life in the shade of a constant siege and a perpetual fugue.
Photojournalism has the strong power to show what happen around the world through the authenticity of some shoots taken by humans. Photos can show what sometimes is difficult to tell through words because images have a direct impact with human eyes; pictures hardly can tell untruths they sometimes destroy walls of silence showing directly to everybody with the simplicity of a moment what the world is into the “sonorous” image of the daily reality. I would like to destroy a wall of silence which sometimes has been built around Kurds, living closer to them and sharing their vision with people around the world.

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