- Jacob Russell's intimate photo essay follows Kurdish female fighters
- He says the images of these Peshmerga have an important social, political role
The Iraqi Kurds have long been pro-Western in orientation, but Western powers have often only moderately addressed their pleas for support, in part out of fear of empowering the secessionist minority to seek independence. Now, with soccer moms in Middle America tweeting photos of Kurdish female fighters, Western governments may find it harder to explain their tepid Kurdish policies to their constituencies.
Jacob Russell's sensitive photo essay brings much-needed nuance to the recent proliferation of images of Kurdish female fighters.
Since last summer, international media -- and Kurdish politicians who have recognized the public relations value of the images -- often objectified these women. Images of smiling young female fighters brandishing weapons with a hint of glamour ("girls with guns," as Russell calls this type of portrayal) tend to portray more of the photographer's assumptions about the woman's emancipation than her actual experiences as a Kurdish woman in combat.
Russell consciously avoids this uncomplicated portrayal of female fighters.