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The Kurdish Identity: Fighting to Exist

As I was walking through rue Lafayette in Paris, I stumbled upon a Kurdish protest march; the day before three women were killed in a building along rue Lafyette on the 9th of January, 2013. Omer Guney, a secret agent from the Turkish state assassinated Fidan Dogan, Leyla Sayelemez and Sakine Cansiz of the Kurdish Wokers’ Party (PKK), in cold blood.
Since experiencing this protest I have been documenting and discovering the unknown Kurdish people; in Paris first then in Turkey, in the old city of Diyarbakir, near the Syrian border – the biggest Kurdish city in the Kurdistan-Turc.

The Turkish government acted oppressively against the Kurdish people for decades, with draconian measures used to quell any thought of Kurdish independence; a few years ago, you could be sent to jail if you wrote the letters, Q, W and X (as these were in the Kurdish alphabet but not in the Turkish alphabet), it’s been now legal to use these letter since 2013.

In Diyarbakir I spend time in the Cegerxwin Kültür Merkezi (CKM), a Kurdish academy focused on teaching traditional literacy, dancing and music classes. The students at the academy arrive primarily from four nation-states (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran) which form the geographical land known as Kurdistan. I met with some people from war-torn Kobane (a city that was engaged in severe conflict with Daesh), some of them were at CKM because they lost their parents, others are just studying whilst their families fight Daesh and now the Erdogan state.

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The Kurds are staunch in their identity, which can be heard in their songs; I listened to many that spoke of warriors and revolutions. Through these songs and cultural teachings, the Kurdish identity, way of life and struggles to maintain their values and traditions are passed onto the younger generations, from elders hoping to instil a sense of pride within the Kurdish youth.

As the international media’s focus on the Kurdish fight against Daech has dwindled, the Kurds continue to battle for their culture with new (Daesh) and old foes (Turkey), yet their sense of being, their identity and their purpose has never been stronger.

This series of photos is representative of my experience within Kurdish communities in France and Turkey.

David Maurel

Born September 1985 in Aix-en-Provence, France. David developed his passion for the photography according to his journeys; eager to capture the spontaneous elegance of what surrounds him; the light and the serenity of the world. Interested in the person behind the headline, David often resorts to the portrait to deal with news coverage. Finally, in parallel of this documentary photography practice, he also produces melancholic and poetic photo series’. Thanks to his dad and grandfather.

Insta: @david_maurel

Tumblr: davidmaurel.tumblr.com

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