If you’re paying attention to the news this week, you know that the hard-fought battle for Mosul has finally reached its end. Both Iraqi authorities and US-led coalitions have gone on the record to state that after more than two years of occupation, fighters have largely wrested the city from Daesh’s control.
Following the destruction of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri on June 21st, 2017, Iraqi forces pushed forward and finally captured the site on June 29th. The Mosque is a significant site for both sides of this conflict because the leader of Daesh, the notoriously reclusive Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made his only public appearance there in 2014. Speaking from the balcony three days after the jihadist group announced their new caliphate, al-Baghdadi announced himself as leader and spoke about his vision for a new Islamic world. The recapturing of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri signaled the final push towards recovering the city in full.
During these past few weeks, we have noticed a glut of images and media produced by photojournalists working in Mosul and the surrounding area. Even as photographers are disseminated their work through traditional means like shooting for major news outlets (BBC, Reuters, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and beyond), they were simultaneously using their personal social media accounts to provide frequent (even hour-by-hour) updates on the battle—as well as shots that portray the heartbreaking realities of living in a city besieged.
Their coverage won’t end as the battle comes to a close. “I’m looking ahead to the next phase of post-conflict reintegration and rehabilitation” says photographer Alexandra Howland. “The complexities of what is to come are infinite, and I’m taking the time to try to understand the situation as well as I can; this will help me figure out the most effective way to document it. Despite the supposed liberation of Mosul, the challenges facing Iraq and Kurdistan are unending.”
Below, we have singled out five photographers whose Instagram accounts are worth following if you’re interested in keeping an eye on Mosul. All of them post photographs, but many of them also include videos, slideshows, or Instagram Stories—all of which provide a multifaceted, immediate perspective on this conflict.
Cover image by Laurence Geai. “On June 4, 2017, the 9th and 16th divisions of the Iraqi army launched an offensive in the Al Zinjili district west of Mosul. Clusters of civilians arrived. The Iraqi army welcomed them, gave them water, and healed the wounded. Many of them had been hit by shrapnel. Here, a man is cared for by several medics from the Iraqi army. He seems in shock and is in tears.”
Out of the desert they walked, trudging through the sand and dust kicked up by Iraqi special forces Humvees. Some carried small bags of clothing. Others held sticks with white cloth tied to the end. Mohamed carried the tiny body of his two-month-old daughter wrapped in bloodied linen. It was Feb. 23 on the southwest outskirts of Mosul, the day before Iraqi forces began their campaign to retake the western half of the city. Their attack prompted thousands of civilians like Mohamed and his family to flee. They had been sheltering inside that morning when some sort of munition hit their house. The explosion killed his wife, their infant and an unconfirmed number of other civilians nearby. Security forces clustered Mohamed’s group together near a concrete home where his family sought out water. First they gulped desperately, then they washed the child’s body. Two women joined by the girl’s elderly uncle stripped the body in the shade behind the house. Holding the lifeless form by one leg, they poured water from plastic bottles over it. No one spoke as the artillery and explosions echoed from the distance. I watched with a young Iraqi soldier, who looked at me and shook his head in sadness. After re-wrapping the body in the linen, the girl’s uncle walked back out with a broken pickaxe and a shovel. He and other men from the family selected a small spot in the earth and began to dig. Tired and exhausted from their journey, and frail from the months of siege, they struggled to make a dent. Each took turns before collapsing beside the hole in the earth. After digging for about 45 minutes they lowered the body. The flow of civilians passed by as smoke from the fighting rose behind them. Stacking stones over the corpse, they then used water from the bottles to make clay with the earth and seal in the body. Kneeling, the men shoveled the remaining bits of dirt into the holes with their hands and placed a gravestone at the top. On it, along with the girl’s name and the year, was scratched: “This is a child’s grave.” Link in bio for a @katzandrew @timelightbox piece including this and other photographer’s images and backstories covering the Mosul offensive. #battleformosul
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Cengiz Yar is a photographer based in northern Iraq who has been following the battle in Mosul for months. He frequently shoots for The Guardian and Foreign Policy; many of his images feature refugees fleeing fighting and, as a result, their homes. Yar also utilizes Instagram Stories, a feature in the app which allows photographers to share minute-by-minute ephemeral photos and videos.
Some drone footage of the final battle in the Old City from a couple of days ago. More in apvideohub.com #AP @felipedana
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Civilians flee West Mosul as Iraqi troops continue to push deeper into the city in an attempt to liberate the final stronghold of Da’esh in Iraq (April, 2017). #mosul #mosuloffensive #documentaryphotography #myfeatureshoot #everydaymiddleeast #everydayiraq #reportagespotlight #reportage #war #photography
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Alexandra Howland’s work covers the movement of Iraqi forces (including the Iraqi Federal Police) and the very personal toll of war on Mosul’s civilians. The British-American photographer also utilizes Stories to follow the conflict closely.
Mossul #al nouri mosque #icts #daesh #war #Mosul #irak #iraq
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French photographer Laurence Geai works on humanitarian causes in her native France and around the world. Her recent shots of Mosul follow members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces around the city in their attempt to dislodge Daesh from major points in the city. Her videos are strikingly immersive—as an audience, we feel that we are crouched next to her on the street.
Mosul Free. #Iraq #mosul #everydaymiddeleast #everydayiraq #myfeatureshoot #war
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