This photo essay displays various faces of male Kosovo-Albanians directly connected to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq: relatives of jihadists, returned foreign fighters, and an imam. Women played active roles in the conflict as well, but proved more difficult to track down and interview.
Kosovo has produced one of the highest number of fighters per capita to the recent wars in the Middle East. Yet the vast majority of Kosovo-Albanians do not have any connections to the foreign conflicts, and no longer see Islamic extremism as a threat.
For a small group of people in the country, Syria’s war left an indelible scar on their lives. As A. J. Naddaff conducted interviews with fathers whose sons left to fight “jihad,” he was reminded of how what seems exotic and foreign for some is quite real and personal for others. To pick up arms and join a foreign conflict in Syria and Iraq is a sign of final despair and reflects how deep grievances ran in a country where opportunities are few and far between. Although every person who left for “jihad” chose to do so for different reasons, similar pangs of guilt, sorrow, and indignation were voiced by family members grappling with the devastating reality.