Humanizing the War: “Guerrilla Fighters of Kurdistan”

We’re inundated with war. And the only way to reconceptualize the magnitude of the bloody chaos is to attempt to humanize both sides of the existential lines: the warrior and the citizen.

Canadian-born photographer and director Joseph Anthony Lawrence, better known as Joey L, is based in Brooklyn, New York. But in March of 2015, he developed an ambitious persona project that would take him to the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Syria.

His very informative prologue highlights how he managed to capture the essence of the “Kurdish guerrilla groups known as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), People’s Protection Units (YPG), and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).”

“During my initial research, I couldn’t help but notice that there were many theories as to whom these Kurdish guerrilla groups were. The foreign press often romanticized the females in their ranks as fearless warrior women, while some of my Turkish friends suggested that they were terrorists, operating more as opportunists in a bloody war. I set out to uncover the truth, or at least to better understand the nuances behind the headlines. Portrait photography has a strange way of humanizing even the most distant of situations, and that was my goal with this project.”

00:00 – Intro, Joey departs NYC
01:31 – Preparation in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan

02:15 – PKK Guerrillas in Makhmour
05:41 – Crossing the border into Syria, YPG/J Guerrillas in Rojava
07:19 – Interview with YPJ members
09:07 – Daily life on a YPG/J base and photoshoot
10:13 – Clash in Tel Tamer, dead ISIS fighters
12:38 – Interview with American YPG Fighter “Fat Jack” in Tel Tamer
13:44 – Tel Hamis liberation, guerrillas living in abandoned ISIS base
16:38 – Urban exploration of abandoned ISIS base
20:28 – Overview of humanitarian crisis on Sinjar mountain
23:10 – ISIS suicide VBIED attack inside the besieged city of Sinjar
25:14 – Funeral of YBŞ guerrilla fighter in Sinjar
26:23 – Yezidi refugees and Shingal Resistance Unit
28:37 – Outro and closing thoughts
29:19 – Funeral of British YPG soldier Konstandinos Erik Scurfield

The photography in this video and further writing can be found at:


Content Director at OogeeWoogee. I'm a nomad; I like to engage in cross-cultures experiences---I'm a wanderlust, eating pancakes everywhere I go.

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