Joey Lawrence shot the photographs in We Came From Fire: Kurdistan’s Armed Struggle Against ISIS (powerHouse Books, July 2019) while embedded with Kurdish fighters, many of them women, during the Iraq and Syrian civil wars. Through reportage and empathetic portraits, Lawrence’s work illuminates events of a complex conflict often lost in the noise of mainstream media coverage.
The ancient homeland of the Kurds, an ethnic minority of 40 million people, is strewn across Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Kurdish people have found themselves forcibly assimilated into the fabric of these modern-day nations and persecuted as second-class citizens.
In recent years, Kurdish men and women have taken up arms against radical jihadist groups, such as ISIS, operating in Iraq and Syria. During his time in the region, Lawrence watched as volunteer guerrilla fighters grew into a fully functioning army which is now known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“The intimacy between Lawrence and his subjects is palpable, established through his extraordinary ability to courageously embrace the unknown and the unexpected,” writes powerHouse in the press release. With photographs that get to the “true heart” of the conflict – it’s people – We Came From Fire documents the fighters’ struggle for independence from jihadist groups without “losing sight of the larger political significance.”
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