Among the approximately 300,000 Kurdish Syrians displaced by the ISIS siege and subsequent battle are the last generation of tattooed women from the region. Facial tattoos were common until the mid 1960s in the Kurdish areas of northern Syria. Black, geometric patterns were created with sewing needles and an ink of soot and mother's milk, for beautification, tribal identification, luck, fertility and protection. In recent years, women have forsaken the tradition, which is now considered to be old-fashioned and 'haraam'-- against the rules of Islam, the predominant religion in the area. Some symbols from Yazidism, a religion that in the past was practiced by many Kurds, including sun, moon, stars and peacock, can be found in the tattoos. Other tattoos resemble vines and symbolize fertility and strength, while the patterns of shapes and inverted "v"s which oftentimes decorate the chin are said to make the owner's speak more sweetly. Nowadays, vestiges of the tradition can be found in the simple dots that sometimes mark a woman's forehead, nose or chin. The tattooed women of Kobani are living artifacts, providing us with a window into the past. -Jodi Hilton
Safi Haso, about 70 years old, from Girik village of Kobani. "We are probably the last generation that has tattoos," she says. "All Kurdish women had them.
Adule Ali, about 80, from Kobane. “When I was young, a gypsy woman made my tattoos,” said Adule. As a young bride, her husband was apparently so taken by her beauty that upon seeing her, he accidentally cut his finger off with the scythe he had been using to cut wheat.
Amina Saleh, 60, from Musko, a village of Kobani, at Bulgur Fabrikası refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey, A mother of 6, she got her face tattooed when she was about 10 years old.
Badiya Jelal Aqil, 33, and her daughter, Fatma Tamra, 12. "My daughter liked my tattoo and asked for the same ," said Aqil, who fled Kobani with her husband and five children to Arbet Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. She says her grandmother made her tattoos, which are three simple dots on her face and three on her left hand. Fatma has just one dot between her eyes.
"How beautiful we are," says Goeja Haso, 60, from Girik village of Kobani, "One young woman I knew had tattoos made by a gypsy woman, and when I saw, I cried and told my mother I wanted the same."
Amina Abdel Majid Suleyman, 70, from Kobani at Rojava refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey, The mother of 7 children who cares for two grandchildren after their mother died. "I was tattooed as a baby, probably I was about 6 months old"
Zubeyda Ali, 60, who fled Kobane with her family, including 10 married children and 25 grandchildren. She has a large tattoo on her left hand and some small inverted-V tattoos on her chin. Her husband, Nuh Shahin, says, “All the men loved girls with tattoos.” They married when she was 13-- already tattooed, and he was 20.
Fatima Habash, 55, from Kobani, a mother of 8 children at refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey.
Meliha Omer, about 80, from Girik, a village of Kobani. She remembers having her face tattooed when she was 10 or 11 years old. "All the women had tattoos," she recalled. "But when we recognized it was haraam [against Islam] we stopped."
Noyle Muzlem, 55 from El Ajak village of Kobani, at Rojava refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey. "It's an old tradition. I don't really like my tattoos."