Photojournalism / Editorial Photography | Nominee

Sonja Hamad

Berlin / Germany

»Jin – Jiyan – Azadi« Women, Life, Freedom. Die kurdischen Kämpferinnen.


It is said that death at the hands of a woman bars the gates of paradise to potential martyrs. It is estimated that, in Kurdistan, a third of the Kurdish freedom fighters that are standing fast against heavily armed IS militants in Syria and northern Iraq are women. Together with their brigades of male comrades in arms, they successfully conquered IS forces to regain the city of Kobane in northern Syria in early 2015. They also helped to rescue the Yezidi people in Sindscha City from genocide.
Hundreds of Kurdish Yazidi women in Sindscha were taken hostage by the IS, sold as sex slaves on markets, raped and even beheaded. It is in this context that the IS is revealed as the most direct, extreme, and brutal form of patriarchy, sexism, and feudalism. The IS stands for an ideology in which there is no place for women as persons with even the most basic human rights or vestiges of freedom. In view of this, it is the women who have the least to lose and the most to gain.


The documentary photographer Sonja Hamad was born in 1986 in Damascus, Syria, to Kurdish Yazidi parents.

When she was three-years old, she fled to Germany with her family for political reasons. She grew up in a small town in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

After leaving school, she worked for two years as a creative assistant to an advertising photographer in Hamburg.

She went on to study photography at the Ostkreuzschule in Berlin from 2009 to 2013, where she successfully completed her studies with her portrait project titled ‘Wenn’s drauf ankommt’. While still in the research phase for her final-year project, Sonja Hamad was unable to travel to Syria as she had planned as war broke out at the time.

She therefore began her project in Germany. She portrayed members of her family, friends and strangers in the course of her search for her own identity between the two poles of feeling like a stranger in a strange land and a feeling of belonging.

In this part of her work, she understands cultural identity not primarily as political, but rather as a personal and intimate matter.

2013 saw the beginning of her project ‘Jin, Jian, Azadi - Frauen, Leben, Freiheit – die kurdischen Freiheitskämpferinnen’, which is, in contrast, extremely political. Building on her contacts from her final-year project, Sonja Hamad was able to travel to northern Iraq for the first time in March 2015, and subsequently to Syria, for her photographic documentary about the Kurdish women fighting for freedom.

She returned there in September 2015 and December 2016.

Sonja Hamad lives in Berlin, where she also works as a freelance photographer for various magazines and customers.