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The Fall of Mosul

The Fall of Mosul

On January 2014, ISIL took control of Fallujah and Ramadi, inciting conflict with the US trained and equipped Iraqi Army. On 4 June, the insurgents began their efforts to capture Mosul. The Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers and another 30,000 federal police stationed in the city, facing a 1,500-member attacking force. However, after six days of fighting, the city, Mosul International Airport, and the helicopters located there all fell under ISIL’s control. An estimated 500,000 civilians fled from the city due to the conflict.

Travelling with a writer in support of the Assyrian Aid Society we arrived in Northern Iraq just after the fall of Mosul and the evacuation of Qaragosh, a large Christian majority town located around 32 km southeast of the city of Mosul. The primary purpose of our mission was documentation and reporting, however, we also raised money for much need medical supplies, volunteered with child protection and worked as a media liaison on behalf of the refugees.

After arriving in Erbil we travelled to the Christian suburb of Ankawa. Hundreds of people were sleeping in churches and churchyards with only the most basic shelters. We sat and spoke with many families and visited with the Priests who had suddenly found themselves in the unexpected position of administrators. During one of our visits we were told that we were not like the other reporters, “they only come to make pictures and leave, you stay with us and ask our permission”. It was clear to these internally displaced people (IDPs) that the foreign media were only interested in visual opportunism and that they only represented a 2D stereotype with which to construct their story, but it was not these people’s story, and they each had their own traumatic story which they wished to tell. We spent a few days working with the IDPs, providing support for a couple of child protection charities and recording their stories. It was decided I travel north to Dohuk to meet with the president of the Assyrian Aid Society and to see what support they required, whilst my writer remained in the Ankawa camps to help facilitate and liaise with the international media. During this time we had also been sent a number of financial donations which we turned over to the Church to aid in the purchase of new hypodermic needles and other essential medical supplies.

These sisters from Mosul were teachers but they now find themselves living in a tented community centre. “We weren’t allowed to take our clothes, these are not our clothes” they tell me.

Babies sleep amongst bundles of belongings inside an Assyrian community centre now serving as a temporary shelter in central Duhok.

Nageba fled her home in Mosul after ISIS invaded, she tells us her brother had been kidnapped along the Kirkuk road on the 6thof June. She received a phone call confirming he had been taken by ISIS and that they were going to behead him. She was later shown images on the internet of his body hanging upside down from a tree.

This constructions site was intended to be a mall. It has become home to dozens of displaced families. In April 2015 we learned a car bomb had been detonated directly outside the building killing three and wounding a dozen. Luckily the refugees had been evacuated a few months before.

Young Priest Father Daniel sits in his office surrounded by cards and notes from aid organisations and emergency services. The young Priest has found himself responsible for the welfare of hundreds of displaced families.

Unable to afford the high prices of Ankawa’s hotels displaced people are faced to seek refuge in Christian churches. Many sleep outside in the open patiently waiting for the arrival of emergency shelters.

Child protection charities organise group play for the children. The goal is negate the effects of trauma by actively engaging the children in social activities.

Older children attend a makeshift school. Unlike many camps these children are fortunate to be able to continue their education.

I visited Yazidi families with the assistance of the WFP. The Yazidi’s had fled to a large tented camp just outside of Duhok.

The Assyrian Aid Society distribute clothing and hygiene supplies to a centre in the Nineveh Plains.

Children are fitted for warm clothing and given tooth brushes.

This aid package was supplied by the German Federal Agency of Technical Relief (THW). It contained basic hygiene items.

Food parcels are delivered by the Assyrian Aid Society to villages close to Mosul which used to rely on the city for supplies.

In village of Alqosh in the Nineveh Plains a Christian militia successfully defended the village from ISIS.

Residents of Alqosh village refused to leave their homes and were prepared to defend them.