“There’s also another side to war. Those doing the fighting also have to wait, often for many days or weeks, behind the front, before anything happens. Then, later, when the guns fall silent, there’s the strange immobility of the ruins. War is also these moments and these places, away from the noise of battle, where the fighting has stopped, or not yet begun. Before the battles are announced, there is, behind the front, the long wait of those who will have to lead them. Then, once the weapons have been silenced, the silence of the ruins remains. These moments and these places, outside the clash of arms, where one does not fight or not yet, where one does not die or not yet, it ‘s also the war. This is the world Maryam Ashrafihas found herself bearing witness to since first travelling to Kurdistan in 2012,an intermediary world, somewhere between life and death, a space that has pervaded the territory since the beginning of the confrontation between the Kurdish forces and Islamic State in 2014. Through the lens of her camera, she tells the story of communities shaped by the continual presence of guns, damaged by war but nevertheless forging a new collective existence. Alongside the Kurdish women soldiers, the photographer thus also tells the story of the transformation of the condition of women that the Kurdish movement has given rise to thanks to the unprecedented situations brought about by the Syrian civil war. ” Allan Kaval
I have chosen to stay behind the front lines and observe what is happening in these “grey” areas of war, with the aim to share the daily life of the soldiers and those who continue to live in the ruins, despite the reality of their predicament.
It is from this context that emotions and sensations arise, in simple gestures, poses, joyful dances and moments of intimacy. I wanted to make people forget my presence so that only the truth of the struggle and resilience of people remained.
Photos in the book are supported by texts from Allan Kaval, Journalist for Le Monde Newspaper, Kamran Matin, Associate professor of International Relations at Sussex University, Carol Mann, Sociologist and specialist in gender issues and armed conflicts, associate researcher at the University of Paris 8 and director of the Women in War association, Mylène Sauloy, who has documented the conflict in four different parts of Kurdistan, notably since 1998 in Rojava, with films, articles, exhibitions and a soon to be published graphic novel on Kurdish women in war.
Maryam Ashrafi is a social documentary photographer who believes in long-term projects. Her work puts a face on a widely commented war that remains distant and by the West primarily perceived in terms of the number of refugees.
Maryam documents the war in her own way, stressing its complexities and the effective construction of a new social model based on equality, with women occupying the same roles as men, contrary to the status quo in their part of the world.
That is why, over the years, she has returned to the same places, to show the unique power of people’s resilience and will to live and seek change, and it is her conviction that documenting conflicts and the consequences of war is vital for the provision of evidence and testimony necessary to be seen and known in the future.
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“The struggle of the Kurdish people and their fight for freedom and fundamental rights have not come to an end, and therefore this book cannot portray all of their journeys, nor shall I stop documenting what is still to come. Yet I believe, as a witness, I owe it to history and to those I have met for sharing some of these images in this book to show part of their journey to freedom and equality” — Maryam Ashrafi
About Maryam Ashrafi
Maryam Ashrafi is a Paris-based Iranian photographer. Born in Tehran in 1982 during the Iran and Iraq war, Maryam is passionate for sociology which led her to focus her interest in social and socio-political issues in countries around the world. Graduated with a BA in social documentary photography from the University of Wales, Newport in England, she began to explore these issues, focusing in particular on the situation of Kurds. For several years, she has been working on different subjects: refugees in Paris, mobilization of the Kurdish and Iranian diasporas, the Indignants Movement in Paris and riots in Paris following different social and political issues around the world. Above all, as a freelance independent photographer, she has covered the aftermath of wars from Kobane in Northern Syria to Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan, until 2018.
Her long-term work on Kurdish issues has also led her to work as a camerawoman for documentaries such as I Am The Revolution (2018) and to direct and shoot her upcoming documentary in Iraq and Syria (To be released in 2021).
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire Baron Gérard – 37, rue du Bienvenu
Open everyday from 10am to 12.30am & 2pm to 6pm – Free
Maryam Ashrafi will be present at the book fair on Saturday, October 9 for a signing