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In Photos: Grief, Pride, and Hope in the Ruins of Kobane

The border town of Kobane is a powerful symbol of Kurdish resistance against the Islamic State. Its residents, who fled in their thousands last year, are returning with the hope of rebuilding their lives.
Photo par Maryam Ashrafi

Over the past year Kurdish fighters in Syria have managed to wrestle several cities back from the the clutches of the so-called Islamic State (IS). Kobane, a city on the border with Turkey, became a symbol of resistance when members of the People's Protection Units (YPG) managed to drive out IS fighters after a months-long siege.

But the battle is not yet over. Fighters are still defending the city across three major frontlines near the city, and are aiming to advance to other Kurdish regions.


Related: 'There Will Be a Civil War in Turkey': Welcome to Cizre, the 'Center of Kurdish Resistance'

Since July 24, the Turkish government also has been carrying out airstrikes against both Kurdish and IS positions across the wider region, as deep tensions between Ankara and the Kurdish minority threaten a return to a 30-year conflict that claimed more than 40,000 lives.

On Tuesday, the Turkish military said its planes hit 17 targets of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) near the border with Iran and Iraq. A day earlier, nine people, including five police officers, were killed in separate attacks in Istanbul and southeastern Turkey, which the country's government blamed on the PKK.

Yet Kobane's residents, who fled the city in their thousands last year, have started coming back with the hope of rebuilding their lives. However, 80 percent of the city remains rubble and streets are littered by empty shells and corpses yet to be buried. Many fighters are also restless to hold traditional ceremonies for comrades who lost their lives on the frontlines against IS.

Related: Night Operation Against the Islamic State: The Battle for Rojava (Dispatch 2)

The story of Kobane also highlights the power of resistance within both the YPG and YPJ (Women's Protection Units), showing the important role of women in this society and the conflict against IS, a group that targets women with repression and violence.


All photos by Maryam Ashrafi

A Kurdish boy going through some books left in a destroyed building in Azadi square. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

A group of YPJ and YPG fighters carry the coffins of Kurdish fighters who were killed during clashes with IS on the eastern frontline of Kobane. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

At a cemetery in Kobane in April 14, families and friends mourn around the grave of Ageri, a Kurdish female fighter who was killed during clashes with IS. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

Serda, a YPJ fighter, with a YPG fighter in Baghdak village, located between Aleppo and Raqqa. After the liberation of Kobane, the YPG and YPJ fighters advanced across areas of countryside, taking over 160 villages. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

YPJ members mourn for Ageri, a fellow fighter who was killed during clashes with IS. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

Roonahit, a YPJ fighter, prepares a meal in Baghdak village. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

A group of YPG and YPJ fighters dance in Baghdak village. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

A new YPJ fighter writes her diary at night in Baghdak. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

The remains of a skull of an IS fighter on the back of a truck. After the liberation of Kobane, a committee was formed to oversee the clean-up operation in the war-ravaged town. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.

A YPJ fighter looks over the wreckage left by fighting. Photo by Maryam Ashrafi.