Most of Syria is a nightmarish landscape of bombed-out buildings and scorched countryside laid to waste by a brutal civil war now dragging into its third year. But the northeastern region of Syria, Kurdish-controlled Rojava is the exception. This quiet agricultural region has been spared the worst of the war's brutality. The Kurdish population here has thus far refused to overtly align with either side of the conflict, taking a diplomatic position they have labeled "The Third Line."  It appears to be working. As Assad's regime focuses its fight on the rebels in Syria's western regions, the Kurds in Rojava have established an interim government, local councils, and armed forces like the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish police force known as Asayish. In stark contrast to the ruins of other Syrian cities, downtown areas of Qamishli, one of the largest Kurdish cities in Syria, are lively and appear untouched by the war raging a few hundred miles away.      But this self-rule in the midst of an ongoing civil war comes at a cost -- Rojava's economy has suffered and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continues to attack its borders, wreaking havoc and terror as they fight to establish their caliphate. Kurdish forces try to keep them at bay.      While in Rojava in late May and early June, photographer Cengiz Yar Jr. noticed the contrast between this region and the rest of Syria, and was struck by the resilience of its people. Rojava was a rare refuge in a country destroyed by civil war, a place maintaining a level of freedom from Assad's dictatorship -- and ISIS. And the Kurds are fighting to hold onto it.      Mousa Mohammed, an elderly local Kurdish teacher in Qamashli seems to speak for his community. In a voice both celebratory and proud, Mohammed cries out, "Our aim is freedom... We will succeed no matter the price."             A  young Syriac fighter stands outside a countryside home, a former ISIS base. The  YPG successfully reclaimed this base south of Qamishli in Rojava province. The  Syriac militias, who are primarily Christian, fight alongside the YPG defending  territory against ISIS.             Cengiz  Yar

Holding the Third Line

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Most of Syria is a nightmarish landscape of bombed-out buildings and scorched countryside laid to waste by a brutal civil war now dragging into its third year. But the northeastern region of Syria, Kurdish-controlled Rojava is the exception. This quiet agricultural region has been spared the worst of the war's brutality. The Kurdish population here has thus far refused to overtly align with either side of the conflict, taking a diplomatic position they have labeled "The Third Line."  It appears to be working. As Assad's regime focuses its fight on the rebels in Syria's western regions, the Kurds in Rojava have established an interim government, local councils, and armed forces like the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish police force known as Asayish. In stark contrast to the ruins of other Syrian cities, downtown areas of Qamishli, one of the largest Kurdish cities in Syria, are lively and appear untouched by the war raging a few hundred miles away.      But this self-rule in the midst of an ongoing civil war comes at a cost -- Rojava's economy has suffered and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continues to attack its borders, wreaking havoc and terror as they fight to establish their caliphate. Kurdish forces try to keep them at bay.      While in Rojava in late May and early June, photographer Cengiz Yar Jr. noticed the contrast between this region and the rest of Syria, and was struck by the resilience of its people. Rojava was a rare refuge in a country destroyed by civil war, a place maintaining a level of freedom from Assad's dictatorship -- and ISIS. And the Kurds are fighting to hold onto it.      Mousa Mohammed, an elderly local Kurdish teacher in Qamashli seems to speak for his community. In a voice both celebratory and proud, Mohammed cries out, "Our aim is freedom... We will succeed no matter the price."             A  young Syriac fighter stands outside a countryside home, a former ISIS base. The  YPG successfully reclaimed this base south of Qamishli in Rojava province. The  Syriac militias, who are primarily Christian, fight alongside the YPG defending  territory against ISIS.             Cengiz  Yar

Most of Syria is a nightmarish landscape of bombed-out buildings and scorched countryside laid to waste by a brutal civil war now dragging into its third year. But the northeastern region of Syria, Kurdish-controlled Rojava is the exception. This quiet agricultural region has been spared the worst of the war's brutality. The Kurdish population here has thus far refused to overtly align with either side of the conflict, taking a diplomatic position they have labeled "The Third Line." It appears to be working. As Assad's regime focuses its fight on the rebels in Syria's western regions, the Kurds in Rojava have established an interim government, local councils, and armed forces like the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish police force known as Asayish. In stark contrast to the ruins of other Syrian cities, downtown areas of Qamishli, one of the largest Kurdish cities in Syria, are lively and appear untouched by the war raging a few hundred miles away.

But this self-rule in the midst of an ongoing civil war comes at a cost -- Rojava's economy has suffered and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continues to attack its borders, wreaking havoc and terror as they fight to establish their caliphate. Kurdish forces try to keep them at bay.

While in Rojava in late May and early June, photographer Cengiz Yar Jr. noticed the contrast between this region and the rest of Syria, and was struck by the resilience of its people. Rojava was a rare refuge in a country destroyed by civil war, a place maintaining a level of freedom from Assad's dictatorship -- and ISIS. And the Kurds are fighting to hold onto it.

Mousa Mohammed, an elderly local Kurdish teacher in Qamashli seems to speak for his community. In a voice both celebratory and proud, Mohammed cries out, "Our aim is freedom... We will succeed no matter the price."

 

A young Syriac fighter stands outside a countryside home, a former ISIS base. The YPG successfully reclaimed this base south of Qamishli in Rojava province. The Syriac militias, who are primarily Christian, fight alongside the YPG defending territory against ISIS.

 

Cengiz Yar

Women mourn during a funeral in Qamishli for six YPG fighters who were killed during clashes with ISIS in the nearby village of al-Taliliya. Fighters who are killed in combat receive massive public funerals.       Cengiz  Yar

Women mourn during a funeral in Qamishli for six YPG fighters who were killed during clashes with ISIS in the nearby village of al-Taliliya. Fighters who are killed in combat receive massive public funerals.

Cengiz Yar

The body of a woman lays wrapped in a blanket. She was killed by ISIS fighters who attacked her family while they slept in early morning hours in the village of al-Taliliya. Among the 16 people killed were seven children and four women. Some had endured close-range, high-caliber weapon fire to the face. This family had fled from Aleppo to the Kurdish controlled region for safety.       Cengiz  Yar

The body of a woman lays wrapped in a blanket. She was killed by ISIS fighters who attacked her family while they slept in early morning hours in the village of al-Taliliya. Among the 16 people killed were seven children and four women. Some had endured close-range, high-caliber weapon fire to the face. This family had fled from Aleppo to the Kurdish controlled region for safety.

Cengiz Yar

A  group of YPG fighters enjoy a casual moment at the frontline position of Til  Meruf in the war against ISIS. The YPG is isolated in Northern Syria, lacking  the support or assistance of the international community. Their sole reliance  on themselves, combined with the region's insular history, fosters a common  sentiment among YPG fighters, echoed by a commander (who asked that he not be  identified by name): "We don't need any help. We believe in our core abilities.  We've seen America destroy other countries and not help people. We will not let  any capitalist countries help us because after they help us they will take our  oil and land. We depend on our people."      Cengiz  Yar

A group of YPG fighters enjoy a casual moment at the frontline position of Til Meruf in the war against ISIS. The YPG is isolated in Northern Syria, lacking the support or assistance of the international community. Their sole reliance on themselves, combined with the region's insular history, fosters a common sentiment among YPG fighters, echoed by a commander (who asked that he not be identified by name): "We don't need any help. We believe in our core abilities. We've seen America destroy other countries and not help people. We will not let any capitalist countries help us because after they help us they will take our oil and land. We depend on our people."

Cengiz Yar

A  YPG fighter rests in a hospital after sustaining injuries trying to protect the  village of al-Taliliya against ISIS.      Cengiz  Yar

A YPG fighter rests in a hospital after sustaining injuries trying to protect the village of al-Taliliya against ISIS.

Cengiz Yar

A  YPG fighter descends from a lookout point at a frontline position in their war  against ISIS in southern Rojava, Syria.      Cengiz  Yar

A YPG fighter descends from a lookout point at a frontline position in their war against ISIS in southern Rojava, Syria.

Cengiz Yar

The remains of a Sufi shrine at the burial site of Sheikh Khaznawi, a moderate Kurdish cleric assassinated by the Syrian government in 2005. ISIS reportedly destroyed the shrine when they captured the town of Til Meruf.      Cengiz  Yar

The remains of a Sufi shrine at the burial site of Sheikh Khaznawi, a moderate Kurdish cleric assassinated by the Syrian government in 2005. ISIS reportedly destroyed the shrine when they captured the town of Til Meruf.

Cengiz Yar

A woman mourns the death of her family members, who were killed in the early-morning attack on al-Taliliya.       Cengiz  Yar

A woman mourns the death of her family members, who were killed in the early-morning attack on al-Taliliya. 

Cengiz Yar

A group of young girls stand outside a wedding ceremony on the outskirts of Qamishli. People in Qamishli are trying to get on with their lives despite the war surrounding them and find joy in enthusiastic celebrations like marriages.      Cengiz  Yar

A group of young girls stand outside a wedding ceremony on the outskirts of Qamishli. People in Qamishli are trying to get on with their lives despite the war surrounding them and find joy in enthusiastic celebrations like marriages.

Cengiz Yar

A YPG fighter walks atop a partially destroyed Sufi mosque in Til Meruf, a frontline position in the battle with ISIS. YPG fighters said that when ISIS attacked they planted explosives in the mosque.       Cengiz  Yar

A YPG fighter walks atop a partially destroyed Sufi mosque in Til Meruf, a frontline position in the battle with ISIS. YPG fighters said that when ISIS attacked they planted explosives in the mosque. 

Cengiz Yar

Two young men check their mobile phones before going to sleep on the roof of their parents' house located on the outskirts of Qamishli. Lights from the Turkish border illuminate the background. Syrian cellular and Internet services no longer work in northeastern Syria and residents now use the Turkish service Turkcell when it's available. Frequent power outages and fuel shortages make for uncomfortable sleeping inside on warm nights. Many people instead chose to sleep on large bed frames on their rooftops to enjoy the cool night air.      Cengiz  Yar

Two young men check their mobile phones before going to sleep on the roof of their parents' house located on the outskirts of Qamishli. Lights from the Turkish border illuminate the background. Syrian cellular and Internet services no longer work in northeastern Syria and residents now use the Turkish service Turkcell when it's available. Frequent power outages and fuel shortages make for uncomfortable sleeping inside on warm nights. Many people instead chose to sleep on large bed frames on their rooftops to enjoy the cool night air.

Cengiz Yar

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