International Media Support (IMS)
Last updated: 7 March, 2015

PHOTOS: Women first, refugees second. #IWD2015

They are women, students, workers and sisters first. Incidentally, they are also refugees.

After fleeing the impact of the Syrian war, these five women were forced to settle far from their homes. Forced by violent conflict to take on a new life so far from their own they could no longer recognise it as theirs.

Wanting to remind the world that the word refugee does not even begin to define their identities, the women took part in a photo shoot for the Iraqi Kurdish women’s magazine, Zhin, supported by the organisation International Media Support (IMS). All five women have taken part in journalism training through Zhin magazine to provide them with a new set of skills. They model traditional clothes from different Kurdish areas.

Nasreen Yusif, 21, Qamishli (northeastern Syria, close to the border with Turkey):

“Life in Syria was amazing. I was with my friends and we studied together. I had dreams of becoming a model. Now I hope to become a TV anchor.” Photos: Sangar, Black Shot Studio



Lomand Omar, 20, Al-Malikiyah (northeastern Syria, close to the border with Iraq):

“Life in Syria was very nice and I never felt unhappy there. I had never even heard the word refugee before I arrived here and became one myself. Now I cannot study, I cannot work, I cannot do anything. Life here is beyond boring and I am not waiting for the future because no future is waiting for us.” Photo: Sangar, Black Shot Studio



Hala Omer, 22, Al-Malikiyah (northeastern Syria, close to the border with Iraq):

“I hope my future will be better than my current life.” Photos: Sangar, Black Shot Studio



Yaldiz Hussen, 20, Al-Malikiyah (northeastern Syria, close to the border with Iraq):

“I was a strong girl with many wonderful dreams but circumstances were stronger than me and my dreams have all disappeared now. I hope I will one day be able to go back to my country and rebuild it and start working on my drams. I believe tomorrow will be better than today.” Photo: Sangar, Black Shot Studio



Rokan, 18:

“Syria was nicer than here. I have suffered psychological trauma from what happened to us and I hate the word refugee. It drives me mad. I am Kurdish and I do not like when people call me refugee. I would like to be seen as an ordinary Kurdish woman, not a refugee.” Photos: Sangar, Black Shot Studio



“The word refugee does not define who we are.”


Zhin is supported by International Media Support (IMS) as part of its work to promote independent, professional journalism in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and to provide a platform for expression for women in a society where representation in, and production of, media is otherwise dominated almost entirely by men. All photos: Sangar, Black Shot Studio