2016 - Iraq doesn’t come to rest. (Iraq has no chance of recovering from the blows and shocks of the recent past). After the US invasion and the following war in Iraq, the offensive on Mosul has been launched. Since mid-2016, the Iraqi army has been fighting closely alongside Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militias to re-conquer the city of Mosul from the so called Islamic state (ISIS; ISIL; DA’ASH).
The villages located approximately 20 kilometers east of Mosul belonged to the first territories, which have been liberated by the Kurdish Peshmerga. The majority of the houses there were either completely destroyed or heavily damaged by air strikes or numerous other explosive devices. These damaged streets and sometimes completely destroyed buildings are controlled and secured by the Peshmerga. Inside a number of the houses/dwellings, explosive devices remain, lethal objects as well as anti-personnel mines which line the sides of the streets. The village has been almost entirely tunneled through by the IS forces. The narrow and sticky passageways often lead along underground storage areas towards places of strategic importance. This web of tunnels was set up as an efficient defense mechanism against air strikes and to further the mobility/flexibility in urban warfare.
During the two years of occupation by the IS-forces, the male inhabitants were forced to wear beards, forced to pray five times a day, forced to handover smartphones and forced to stop smoking. Much of the heavy machinery, such as tractors etc. were all either confiscated or simply stolen by the IS.
As a result of being deprived of opportunities to earn a living through regular work, the conditions of living have deteriorated tremendously. Whoever is able to escape from this environment of brutal reactionary compulsion ends up in one of the existing reception camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) in Kurdistan. Here, refuge-seeking people are provided with the most basic supplies and find temporary shelter within tents and provisional housing. Meanwhile, there is a certain strange tension within the camp. Some of the people here can breathe deeply and freely for the first time in two years. Despite this, one can still see and sense fear mirrored in peoples eyes. Due to security reasons, IDP’s are not allowed to enter and exit the camp as they please. This is because the anxiety of potential IS suicide bombers infiltrating the camp is perceived as a constant threat to the unstable security situation. Emotional encounters between families, relatives and friends, who have been separated during their flight and now are close to being re-united occur almost every day at the camp fences.
The military offensive on Mosul and consequential flight of thousands of human beings will continue and the humanitarian catastrophe will worsen/deepen as time goes on. While the suffering is omnipresent and ubiquitous, children are the weakest individuals in this constellation of constant violence and anxiety, forced after two years of IS occupation to leave their homelands.