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February 16, 2017

Sonja Hamad portrays the women behind the guns


With 9m2, it’s the smallest living space on Volkshotel grounds. But don’t let its size fool you. This tiny eco-friendly hub, hidden in the parking lot of Volkshotel, might just contain the greatest ideas. Every month a new photographer is resident of photography platform Docking Station. As a ‘docker’ their goal is to move their visual story forward. By collaborating with experts in the field, encountering likeminded Dutchies or just by riding their docking bike through Amsterdam. German photographer Sonja Hamad is the eighth docker. This is her story.

Photography, hotel amsterdam

Tell us something about your project Jin – Jiyan – Azadi (Women, Life, Freedom). What’s it about?
“The story’s about the women of the Kurdish Freedom Fighters. Many people think they only fight ISIS. But they do much more than that. The most important thing is: they fight for equality and women’s rights. To show society they are strong and they can fight. Just like men. At the moment the Kurdish Freedom Fighters is the biggest feminist movement in the world. When I first saw pictures of them in the media I immediately thought that this is not the right way to portray them. Waving their guns around and screaming. Because I know the Kurdish identity, I knew there was more to tell. I wanted to show the women behind the guns.”

Sonja Hamad, Volkshotel, photography

You know the Kurdish Identity? What’s your connection?
“Well, I was born in Syria and have Kurdish parents. They are Yezidi. When I was 3 years old, we moved to Germany because of political reasons. So I grew up with the language and culture, but am very lucky to live in Europe. My family is very liberal and all my life I learned that many women around the world are being suppressed. What I find so interesting and impressive is that these women fighters don’t fight for themselves, but for all women around the world. That’s so inspiring. Having the same age and background, it’s like a little bit of myself out there.”

Sonja Hamad, hotel amsterdam, photography

Is there a meeting with someone that was most memorable?
“Yes. A lot. Especially the PKK women are interesting. They live in the mountains. Without the mountains they can’t even breathe. When you’re with them, it’s not about fighting at all. They’re true feminists. They live in a community and are completely one with nature and the landscape surrounding them. I’ve experienced so much beautiful moments and pure love there. Everything is shared, they don’t have cell phones or money and before they feed themselves, they feed others. There is so much love! It touched me. Because they’re not in contact with the outside world, their minds are very clear and focussed. They are truly awake.”

Sonja Hamad, Volkshotel, photography

Do you feel like a fighter yourself in any way?
“Maybe, but in a different way. I fight a more cultural fight. But I understand what they’re fighting for. I had to prove to my parents that I could go and travel on my own and that I could do as much as a man, being a woman.”

Being in a country at war, where you ever in any danger yourself?
“Yes. Many things happened. One time I was staying in a little hut and when I was going to bed, a bomb dropped near the house. Everything was shaking! Everyone was ok, fortunately, but I was very scared. Another time I was at the front lines of a fight. The fighters said it was safe and the shooting was far away. But a moment later, the woman next to me got hit in the head. I was very lucky.”

Sonja Hamad, Volkshotel, photography

What is it you’ve learned from these women?
“So much! To enjoy nature more and use less technical stuff. To eat better and healthier. To stay away from capitalism. To commit myself to women’s rights. To live more conscious with nature and people. Here, everyone’s very individual. We have everything, but yet we’re alone. But there, you’re depending on the other because you can’t survive being alone. The freedom of those women makes them so beautiful. It makes me super grateful for everything I have and where I am now.”

Sonja Hamad
Jin – Jiyan – Azadi

Docking Station
Marga Rotteveel & Anaïs López (founders)

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