Stories from Kurdistan

Crossing Kurdish Borders to Defend Kobani

kurdish recruits to fight isis

The post below came to us from Alex Potter, a photojournalist who traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014. She shares her story about meeting young Kurds who were crossing Kurdish borders, on their way to defend their hometown of Kobani against ISIS.

Crossing Borders to Defend Kobani

by Alex Potter

It took us five hours to drive from Sulaymaniyah to mountains north of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. It took us another hour to find the mountain hideaway.

female kurdish fighter

© Alex Potter

Traveling with members of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), we wanted to avoid Erbil and the surrounding area, dominated by the opposing KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party). These were just the first of many acronyms I learned in Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan; for though the Kurds are united in their call for independence, they have deep internal divisions.

We arrived to the nearly-invisible mountain hideaway – each shack made of sacks of sand, rocks, or potatoes, highly insulated, and covered in mud and dried local grasses. On that dark and rainy night, four young Syrian Kurdish men trekked into camp, determined to return to their hometown of Kobani to fight ISIS.

kurdish recruits to fight isis

© Alex Potter

The Kurdish version of a forward operating base served one purpose – to welcome guests coming and going to various fronts in the Kurds latest war. In the history of Kurdistan, there have been many wars.

kurdish fighters crossing borders to fight isis

© Alex Potter

The young men were only four of dozens of Kurds who cross the Tigris River each day, fighting just one small step in their battle for peace and independence.

To learn more about Alex Potter, and to see more of her work, please visit her website: and follow her on Twitter @AlexKPotter.

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