"When Ako Abdulrahman, then 30, bought a used BMW E32 750i Security Vehicle, his intention was the opposite of the one BMW had envisioned. Nothing Ako does is safe or discreet. If he offers you one of his French cigarettes, he lunges forward with it. He drinks a cappuccino in three gulps. He listens to Kurdish rap music and likes it loud. His presence is one of urgent motion. Even his beard is shaped into an angular prominence that suggests direction."
Grab a copy of Vanity Fair's December issue and read Jeff Stern's incredible story of Ako, his BMW, and their Death Race-styled mission during the ISIS attack on Kirkuk in 2016.
Thanks to Rawand and Ari for all the help getting this one done.
Read the online version here.
I'm hitting the road with Instagram and the Facebook Journalism Project for a series of talks about the changing landscape of photojournalism in the digital era.
Tuesday October 03 at 6:00pm at Facebook HQ 770 Broadway, New York, NY
Thursday October 05 at 12:00pm at National Geographic 1600 M Street, Washington, DC
Monday October 09 at 3:30pm at Eddie Adams Workshop 52 Sullivan Ave., Liberty, NY
Wednesday October 11 at 3:30pm at JSK Journalism Fellowships Stanford University 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA
Thursday October 12 at 1:30pm at Instagram HQ, Hacker Way, Menlo Park, CA
(updated: overview of discussion at National Geographic here)
A big thank you to Instagram for displaying the below image at Photoville in New York last week.
At the end of June the battle for Mosul entered it's ninth and final month and Iraqi forces had ISIS surrounded and cornered in the center of Mosul's Old City. Tens of thousands of civilians were estimated to remain trapped alongside the extremist militants with dwindling food supplies and little to no water or medical care after the months of siege. During the days surrounding this photo, Iraqi troops were advancing on foot into the tightly knit alleyways of the ancient Old City. The fighting was intense and brutal in the peak heat of Iraqi summer. As troops moved forward house by house, they reached trapped civilians allowing them a chance to finally flee the fighting and siege. Families poured out of the Old City and were sent to refugee camps or sought shelter elsewhere. Many of those fleeing were malnourished or injured and youngest and oldest appeared in the worst condition. People carried what they could, and often each other, through the ruins and dust of what remained of the city streets. Officials estimate that over one million people were displaced from their homes over the course of the fighting for the city. In this image a man and woman were fleeing fighting in Mosul's Old City on June 25, 2017. (Photo credit UNHCR/Cengiz Yar)
"The Iraqi bomb disposal teams are at the forefront of a deadly arms race. While Mosul was recently liberated from Daesh, the underfunded and undertrained Iraqi Security forces are still moving quickly to dispose of all the boobytraps left in its wake. This is bomb disposal at its most improvised.
WIRED photographer Cengiz Yar followed the patrol team of the Iraqi Army's 16th Division Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in June as part of our October issue feature story."
Read the full story behind this image here.
Escaping war and the Islamic State, families took with them what little they could carry — remembrances of loved ones and the past.
Often, there is little function or utility to these items — a broken watch, a child’s garment, a handful of worn photographs. They are tokens of the life — and the people — they left behind.
Read more online here or pick-up this month's edition of Foreign Policy Magazine.
"Fewer than 500,000 Christians are now left in Iraq, down from 1.5 million in 2003," writes Anna Lekas Miller. "Fearing religious extinction, many are advocating that the displaced return home now that ISIS has been driven out." Pickup a copy of Sojourners to read Anna's story about Iraq's dwindling Christian community and their uncertain future. A selection of my photos from the past two years runs alongside the essay.
TIME asked myself and a handful of other photographers to select and write about an image from the battle for Mosul.
Read and see what other photographers wrote about here.
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.”
"This week, three years after Islamic State militants seized Mosul, Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi entered the city to announce its liberation, declaring victory in the 9-month siege even as fighting continued in the last pockets of ISIS-controlled territory."
Read more here.
"With Mosul being declared recaptured this week, The Intercept could not have picked a better time to publish this stunning photo essay by Cengiz Yar. Yar has been covering the invasion since the beginning, and his closeness to the subject is apparent in the intimate access and broad scope of the work. The photos, some of which are difficult to look at, are a reminder of the bittersweet victories of war."
"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."
Read more here.
Three years after Islamic State extremists seized Mosul, their defeat is at hand. At great cost to life and property, Iraqi forces have nearly completed their eight-month campaign to recover the ancient Iraqi city. But Mosul lies in ruins and rebuilding it and returning many of its tens of thousands of residents will likely take years and cost billions of dollars.
Read more here.
"After his nephew was shot trying to flee the old city of Mosul, Abu Taha was trapped. Under the rule of armed extremists, just to be seen with a packed rucksack was enough to get him killed.
Instead, Abu Taha decided to hide in his basement with his nine children and wait for the fighting to end. Finally, last week, as Iraqi government forces battled their way into his neighbourhood, they were able to make their escape."
Read more here.
"Iraqi forces are using small, off-the-shelf drones to target Islamic State in the crowded and twisting streets of Mosul’s Old City, where the militants are making a last stand.
Iraq’s counterterrorism forces on Tuesday said they pushed to within a few hundred yards of the al-Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi officially announced the creation of the Islamic State caliphate in 2014, and has been a symbol of the militants’ power."
Read more here.