Sabah Shivan (22) from Sinjar, Iraq. The Soldiers of Sinjar. August 2014. Forced from their homes, a ragtag group of Kurdish mountain men are headed home to fight the Islamic State to the death.
In the summer of 2014, the world watched, astonished, as Islamic State fighters attacked strategic points in Iraq, quickly and brutally gaining ground. As the group pushed its way west from Mosul to the city of Sinjar, thousands of Yazidis—a minority religious group—and Christians fled, taking shelter in the mountains. Some were slaughtered or taken captive; those who were lucky enough to find refuge on higher ground were stranded.
On assignment for Foreign Policy, Australian photojournalist Andrew Quilty spent the day in a run-down facility close to Peshkhabour on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, in the northern Kurdish region with a militia unit of Yazidi men. Only two weeks into training at the time, the commander said the group wanted to take back their homeland.
The men featured in Quilty’s portraits were mostly in their early 20s or younger, and most were with the Iraqi army before the Islamic State advance on Aug. 4, 2014; there were few among them who didn't have relatives killed or abducted by the Islamic State.
While the ragtag unit was comprised of Yazidis, Muslims, and Christians, they all considered themselves to be Kurdish, Quilty reported. These men had come together not under a Yazidi flag but under one of geographical unity—for the protection of Sinjar.
Samera Salim (30) from Kobani. The Women of Kobani. October 2014. On assignment for Foreign Policy in October 2014, Australian photojournalist Andrew Quilty traveled to a refugee camp in Surac, a town in Turkey just some three miles from the Syrian border. The refugees he met there were Syrian Kurds who had left their homes in the Syrian city of Kobani, which had then become—and remains—a focal point in the Islamic State’s brutal sweep across the region.
Though not an easy feat for a male photographer, Quilty chose to photograph the women in this community; many had waited weeks on the Syrian side of the border before being counted among the thousands who finally crossed into Turkey with what little they could carry. Quilty photographed these women because they were on their own; their husbands and sons had returned to Kobani to fight alongside the People’s Protection Units (commonly known as the YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish Supreme Committee of Syrian Kurdistan.
As Quilty reported then, many of the women were overcome by their hasty exodus from Kobani and all the uncertainty that still awaited them—unsure whether they would ever see their homes, or their men and boys again.