End of the Caliphate
This body of work is a reminder of the power of people to endure and survive no matter what.
Nadhira sat in a plastic chair 15 feet from where an excavator was digging through the ruins of her home in Mosul’s Old City. At times she was engulfed in dust, whipped up as the driver dumped mounds of stone and parts of her house beside her, but she refused to move. Slowly they found the remains of her sister and niece who had been killed when the house was flattened by an airstrike in the final weeks of a battle to defeat ISIS in Mosul in the summer of 2017.
The levels of violence and killing that I witnessed while doing this work were beyond comprehension. During the nearly two years that I documented the battle to defeat ISIS and its aftermath in Iraq and Syria, I struggled to see the high cost of the war as anything but disastrous. In Mosul alone, the death toll was estimated to be over nine thousand and vast tracts of the city were left in ruins.
However, I also saw glimmers of hope for humanity amid the rubble-strewn aftermath.
Meeting Nadhira was one of those moments.
Her defiance that day was simultaneously one of the most heart-breaking and inspiring things I have ever seen. Her stoicism in the face of absolute loss was a deeply symbolic moment for me. One which seemed to speak volumes about the futility of war and the failure of intervention in Iraq, but was also a testament to the depth of strength people have in this fractured region.
Less than a year after the battle concluded, signs of life began returning to Mosul.
I was drawn to photographing young couples laughing as they enjoyed themselves at a newly reopened theme park on the banks of the river Tigris. Through the shrieks of joy and booming Iraqi disco music, it was hard to imagine what had passed here not so long before.
One of the most moving scenes I witnessed was of students coming back in force to attend classes at the prestigious University of Mosul, which was heavily damaged during the fighting. Those young minds gave me hope for the future of this majestic city. A new generation was choosing to learn and equip themselves with knowledge as a weapon.
This selection of images is not an all-encompassing view of war, but rather a beacon of strength in the midst of terrible hardship. They can give us hope despite the challenges we face as a global community.