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.
After arriving in Erbil, Northern Iraq 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, they had their own traumatic stories which they shared with us. 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 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.