I was in a friend’s apartment in Iraq when I learned what had happened. Covered in dust and dried sweat, I had just returned from a day working in West Mosul. I am writing this from Iraq, where I have been for the past three weeks partnering with medical organizations and NGOs and working independently to collect stories and take photographs. It’s here in West Mosul that Iraqi and coalition forces fight to retake the city from Daesh (ISIS).
I’ve worked in several camps for internally displaced persons and with a group whose mission is to mitigate harm to civilians in conflict zones. I’ve listened to the stories of those who have lived under Daesh control, who have lost family and friends, who have seen death and destruction and have been forced to survive on flour and water for months at a time. I have witnessed someone die in front of me — a girl named Zeinab; she was a victim of an airstrike, and I saw the effects her death had on her family as they were told, “She didn’t make it.” But amid destruction and despair, there is resilience and hope of these same people who, in the face of such hardship and adversity, have shown me, a foreigner in their land, nothing but warmth and generosity, and who only look ahead to the work of rebuilding their city.
As I studied the vandalized images, my emotions quickly went from anger to disappointment to sadness.
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