Documentary, Interviews, Photojournalism, Projects, Uncategorized

The Battle for Mosul, as seen by Tommy Trenchard

Iraqi Christians displaced by ISIS militants since 2014 walk past a barber shop as a man gets a shave, inside an IDP camp in Erbil, Iraq. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Tommy Trenchard has spent months documenting the fall out in Mosul, as Iraqi forces retake the city and its residents flee for their lives

After eight months of fighting, Iraqi forces are close to retaking the city of Mosul. Photographer Tommy Trenchard has spent much of the past few months documenting the conflict in his project The Battle for Mosul. His photographs cover the bitter street-fighting in the western half of Mosul, as well as the war’s effect on the city’s residents – over half a million of whom have been displaced since the rise of ISIS in 2014.

The first image in the series shows a girl running through the battle-scarred neighbourhood of Wadi Hajar, in western Mosul. “This photo was taken shortly after the neighbourhood was liberated from ISIS,” says the photographer, who is represented by Panos Pictures and works for a variety of NGOs, international newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times, Newsweek, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Oxfam and MSF. “The area was in a state of flux, with residents returning to their homes even while fighting continued just a few hundred metres away.”

“Mosul was my first experience of covering combat at such close quarters, and some of the scenes were hard to witness,” he adds. “The bodies, which were often in a terrible state, were especially hard. Some of the ISIS fighters were really young, in their mid-teens, and it was difficult not wonder who they were and how they had become caught up in this war.”

A girl runs through the Wadi Hajar neighbourhood of Western Mosul, which was recaptured from ISIS in March. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

A girl displaced by fighting between ISIS militants and government forces in Mosul looks out of the bus window as she waits to be transferred to an IDP [Internally Displaced Person] camp. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

One of the photos in the series shows the body of a young ISIS militant killed by an airstrike earlier in the day. “Scenes like that always made me wonder,” he said. “How many of them were true extremists, and how many were just ordinary people, who felt alienated by their government and who joined ISIS in the early days of their rule before the extent of their brutality became apparent”. 

The photographer added that many of those living in Mosul initially saw ISIS as a legitimate force standing up to a distant, Shia-dominated government, that had neglected and persecuted residents of the Sunni-majority city ever since the American invasion in 2003. “It’s important to remember that they made a decision that seemed rational to them at that time,” he says.

“There is such hatred between the two sides [now], and a lack of empathy that I think will be a challenge in the post-ISIS era, when the country will have to look towards healing and reconciliation.”

www.tommytrenchard.com

Iraqi Red Cross staff attempt to hand out food to desperate civilians fleeing fighting between government forces and ISIS militants in Mosul. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Civilians from the Hai Teran neighbourhood of Mosul salvage belongings from the wreckage of their home, which was hit by an airstrike three days earlier during fighting between ISIS militants and government forces. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

A mother reaches for her child at a reception area in Hamam al Alil as truckloads of IDPs flee fighting in Mosul. When IDPs flee the city, the men and women are separated so that the men can be screened for any links to ISIS. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Iraqi children, displaced by fighting between pro-government forces and ISIS militants in Mosul, cool off in a pool in between two IDP camps in Hamam al Alil, Iraq. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Members of an Iraqi family hide in a basement as a fierce gun battle rages above them in the al Thawra neighbourhood of western Mosul, where pro-government troops are engaged in house to house fighting with ISIS militants © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Families hide in a basement as fighting between ISIS militants and pro-government forces rages above them on the front line in the al Thawra neighbourhood of Western Mosul. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Empty streets in a deserted area of eastern Mosul near the Tigris river and the front line with ISIS. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Snipers with the Iraqi army’s Emergency Response Unit exchange fire across the Tigris river with ISIS militants. who still control the majority of West Mosul. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

Iraqi soldiers are hit by an unidentified gas on the front line in the al Thawra neighbourhood of western Mosul during heavy fighting with ISIS militants. From the series The Battle for Mosul © Tommy Trenchard, courtesy of the artist

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