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Rojava & Bashur: After Islamic State 

August 14, 2015 
by Moises Saman 
Magnum photographer Moises Saman visited Iraqi Kurdistan, known as “Bashur”, or southern Kurdistan to Kurds, and to Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Syria, collectively known to Kurds as Rojava, or western Kurdistan, to document the latest phase of the Kurds’ battle against the Islamic State. In Rojava, he traveled to Kobane, where six months ago the main Kurdish group in Syria, the YPG, drove IS out in a battle that quickly attained epic proportions. Most of Kobane was reduced to rubble by coalition airstrikes and the intense fighting, and today remains firmly in YPG hands but almost entirely carpeted in rubble. He also visited Sarrin, a town near the Euphrates river, that the YPG, backed by coalition airstrikes, captured from IS this summer. The Euphrates now marks a natural boundary between YPG positions to the east and IS positions to the west. In Iraqi Kurdistan, Saman visited the village of Zergele near the Qandil mountains, where the Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), maintains military bases. Saman arrived to Zergele hours after Turkish warplanes struck Zergele, claiming that they were targeting PKK militants in a “terrorist camp". A report by Amnesty International, however, found that all those killed or injured by the Turkish airstrikes were civilians who were not affiliated with the PKK. Amnesty called the attack “flagrantly unlawful” and called on the Turkish government to launch an impartial investigation.

This work will form part of Saman's wider documentary project on Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, which is being supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship.