Women. Life. Freedom. Female fighters of Kurdistan

Updated 10:06 AM ET, Mon January 28, 2019

Gulan, 19, Zerya, 18, and Zilan, 17, Sinjar, Iraqi Kurdistan.

(CNN)While there is no official count, it is believed that 30% to 40% of combatants in Kurdistan are women.

After the Syrian war began in 2011, Berlin-based photographer Sonja Hamad saw many images of Kurdish female fighters -- but felt they did not do the women justice. "The images were very sensational," she says. "The women were depicted in the same way as men -- always holding weapons. The pictures didn't say anything about the women as individuals."
Born to Kurdish Yazidi parents in Damascus, Syria, in 1986, Hamad was 3 years old when her family moved to a small town in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state.
Growing up, Hamad struggled to talk openly about her b