News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Published

September 22, 2020

Written by

Airwars Staff

Airwars adds voice to partners calling on the US government to end its targeting of the ICC

The United States Government recently applied sanctions to senior officers of the International Criminal Court – a court of last resort established by treaty, and endorsed by a majority of countries including most of the US’s closest allies. In partnership with a number of organisations working on the protection of civilians in conflict, Airwars is calling upon the US Government to end its targeting of ICC officials. The public statement also calls on both Presidential campaigns to publicly commit to rescinding an Executive Order passed by President Trump in June, which formed the basis of the ICC sanctions.

We the undersigned, representing human rights and humanitarian non-governmental organizations working on the protection of civilians in conflict, write in opposition to United States sanctions against named senior personnel within the International Criminal Court (ICC).

We call on President Trump to revoke these harmful sanctions immediately and to rescind Executive Order 13928 on “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Associated with the International Criminal Court.” We also call on the Presidential campaigns of both major parties to publicly commit to reversing this harmful Executive Order. The United States should support the rule of law rather than punish those seeking to provide redress to victims of harm.

The ICC exists as a court of last resort to hold government officials and other powerful actors accountable when domestic courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute the most serious international crimes. The Court has secured successful prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The primary beneficiaries are the many civilian victims who can secure no justice elsewhere and the communities subject to cycles of violence fuelled by impunity. They include many victims and survivors of violence for whom the United States has been a strong, vocal advocate for justice and accountability.

We understand that the United States takes issue with some of the ICC’s jurisprudence and assertions of jurisdiction. However, we believe that concerted diplomatic efforts and engagement with the ICC will enhance its effectiveness more than punishing individuals who have dedicated their careers to delivering justice to victims of egregious crimes.

As condemnatory statements from close U.S. allies make clear, the United States has lost significant international standing through these sanctions, which have undermined the international rule of law and provided succour to war criminals seeking to evade justice. 

The United States should recommit to an independent and credible domestic process of investigating and holding to account U.S. citizens for alleged abuses, free from executive interference and consistent with U.S. and international law. That is the best way to ensure that U.S. service members are afforded due process of law in a domestic forum for any alleged wrongdoing and that the U.S. is recognized as a leader in the pursuit of global justice and accountability.

Signed,

Action on Armed Violence

Airwars

Amnesty International USA

Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)

Human Rights First

Oxfam America

Oxford Research Group

Saferworld

▲ A recent appeal hearing at the International Criminal Court (Image via ICC)

Incident Code

TI050

Incident date

August 30, 2020

Location

زاب, Zab area, Duhok, Iraq

Geolocation

37.255337, 43.569031 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Nearby landmark level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Nearby landmark

Airwars assessment

A woman was killed in an alleged Turkish airstrike on Zab area, on August 30th, 2020. While some sources reported that the victim, Hiam Noah Haji, was a political leader of the Kurdish Labour Party, other sources wrote she was the leader of a PKK militia.

Khabour reported that “Kurdistan Labour Party leader Hiam Noah Haji from the village of Pestasos in Maliki countryside was killed due to a Turkish airstrike in Zab area in northern Iraq.”

@VOSyria_ and @suriye_u_a_dr, however, reported that Haji was the leader of a PKK militia.

All sources blamed Turkey for the airstrike.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

  • Hiam Noah Haji Adult female leader with the Kurdistan Labour Party killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 women)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Translation: “An air strike by Turkish warplanes on the Zab region in northern Iraq kills Hiyam Noah Hajji, the leader of the PKK militia, from the village of Pestasos in the countryside of Hasaka” (via @VOSyria_).

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the Zab (زاب) region, in northern Iraq (العراق). Research shows the existence of a Great Zab River (نهر الزاب العظيم) that flows through Turkey, and the districts of Duhok (دهۆک) and Nineveh (نينوى). Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for the northernmost post of the river within the boundaries of Iraq are: 37.255337, 43.569031.

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 women)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TI049

Incident date

August 25, 2020

Location

Bahrava, Nineveh, Iraq

Geolocation

36.419798, 41.545744 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Two civilians were reported killed in Sinjar, Iraq when Turkish drones allegedly struck two vehicles in the evening of August 25th, 2020. The exact location was identified by local sources as Bhrava, Khansur located in the northern Nineveh province.

Iraqi Security Media reported that Turkish drones targeted a double-wheeled pickup truck in the village of Bhrava in Khansur complex in north of Sinjar, and that two civilians were killed while the driver managed to flee.

Head of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) press office in Nineveh Ghayas Surchi said that the victims weren’t affiliated with Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS).

However, Khudeda Chuke, mayor of Sinune town, was reported by Rudaw as saying that ‘a vehicle belonging to the Shingal Protection Units (YBS), a Yezidi armed group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was hit in the vicinity of Bahraviyan village, seven kilometres west of the town of Khanasor. Thankfully, there were no casualties in the bombing,” Chuke said, adding the airstrike struck the vehicle at a YBS base.

It was also reported that another site was struck by Turkish drones in the village of Bara, but there is no information yet about civilian casualties there.

The incident occured at approximately 7:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other

Sources (23) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Bahrava, for which the generic coordinates are: 36.419798, 41.545744. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other

Sources (23) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TI048

Incident date

August 19, 2020

Location

كانى ماز, Kani Masi, Dohuk, Iraq

Geolocation

37.229298, 43.438993 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

One civilian was allegedly killed by a Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi.

Rudaw reported: “Khalid Abdulrahman, 60, was killed while trying to rescue his grazing livestock after several Turkish airstrike hit the village of Kani Mazin, according to Kani Masi Mayor Sarbast Akrey.

‘At 1:45pm a drone came and fired two rockets and then a jet came and fired three others. When the jet fired the sixth rocket it hit the vicinity of the village,’ Akrey told Rudaw English.

‘The teacher tried to rescue the livestock which were near a fire caused by the bombardment but he was killed,’ he added.

The outskirts of the village were set alight by the airstrikes, and villagers have failed to extinguish the blaze, according to the mayor.”

According to Shafaaq the victim was 50 years old.

NRT said: “Sub-district director Sarbast Akrayi told NRT Digital Media that the Turkish military attacked the area around 1:30 pm, conducting five bombing runs, which caused significant damage to the villagers’ orchards and groves.”

Several sources said that the victim was the headmaster of a local school.

The incident occured between 1:30 pm and 1:54 am local time.

  • Khalid Abdulrahman 60 years old male Teacher killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • Alleged Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi on August 19th, 2020 (via Gokturk report)
  • Alleged Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi on August 19th, 2020 (via Wa'ed)
  • Alleged Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi on August 19th, 2020 (via ANF)
  • Alleged Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi on August 19th, 2020 (via ANF)
  • Alleged Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi on August 19th, 2020 (via ANF)
  • Alleged Turkish airstrike on Kani Masi on August 19th, 2020 (via ANF)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Kani Masi (كاني ماسي) for which the generic coordinates are: 37.229298, 43.438993. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Published

August 19, 2020

Written by

Airwars Staff

Support from the Reva and David Logan Foundation follows recent study showing challenges of mainstream media coverage of civilian casualties.

A new Senior Investigator will be joining the Airwars core team in the coming weeks, thanks to a two year grant from the Reva and David Logan Foundation – a Chicago based family philanthropic fund.

Over the past six years, Airwars has consistently shown that its groundbreaking work has a powerful impact on the public understanding of civilian harm – and can lead to positive changes in both policies and practices among militaries. However, systemic challenges in many newsrooms can result in the issue being poorly reported. Our recent study News In Brief, authored by US investigative reporter Alexa O’Brien and also funded by the Logan Foundation, explored the many obstacles to good reporting of this critical issue.

Responding to this deficit, new funding will enable Airwars to majorly enhance its own capacity for much-needed investigations into civilian casualties and their causes, in particular with the appointment of an in-house Senior Investigator – who will be supported by a wider team of geolocation, research and design professionals.

Airwars will then seek partnerships with key US and international media on the most vital and controversial cases and stories. In doing so, it aims to bridge a critical gap in the mainstream reporting of civilian harm from war – and bring many more stories to public awareness. A key focus will be to explore innovative approaches to engaging new audiences on civilian harm issues.

Major investigations

Since its founding, Airwars has published several major investigations into civilian harm. In 2017 our then-inhouse reporter Samuel Oakford revealed with Foreign Policy that, according to senior US military officials, more than 80 civilians had been killed in non-US international airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. That investigation still serves as a key point of engagement for our advocacy work with individual belligerents.

In June 2019, Airwars partnered with Amnesty International on a major project War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality – which found that at least 1,600 civilian deaths had likely been caused by the US-led Coalition during the battle of Raqqa. More recently, Airwars has played a prominent role in reporting the scandal surrounding Dutch responsibility for a 2015 airstrike in Hawijah, Iraq, in which 70 or more civilians likely died. And in early 2020 – in partnership with the BBC, Liberation, De Morgen and RTL Netherlands – Airwars revealed that European militaries were failing to declare civilian deaths from their own actions in the war against ISIS, even where US military personnel had concluded otherwise.

“Airwars is unique. There are few organisations that shine a light so intensely on the wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians caught up in the fury of war. The Airwars team has developed groundbreaking methodology to track these horrors and has delivered their consequent findings with authority to governments, the military and the public,” commented Richard Logan, President of the Reva and David Logan Foundation.

“Their work has consistently brought changes in perceptions and in the conduct of war. It has contributed to a significant reduction of non-combatant battlefield deaths and injuries. For these and other related reasons, it is crucial to magnify Airwars’ investigative capacity to ensure that the plight of the most vulnerable stays at the forefront of all our minds. We are honoured to support their efforts.”

▲ A young girl passes a bomb crater in West Mosul, April 2017 (Image courtesy of Kainoa Little. All rights reserved)

Incident Code

TI047

Incident date

August 14, 2020

Location

أرادن‎, Araden, Dohuk, Iraq

Geolocation

37.10894, 43.31806 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Up to three people were killed and another person was injured in alleged Turkish airstrikes on a vehicle in the village of Ardana, Dohuk governorate, on August 14th, 2020. It remains unclear whether the victims were civilians.

Rudaw reported: “The director of Bamerni district, Hamid Zubeir, told Rudaw Media Network that Turkish planes targeted a Hyundai Tucson car inside the village at 11 AM this Friday, in which three people were travelling. He added that the bombing resulted in the killing of two of them and the third was seriously wounded, and their identities are not known, indicating that the security authorities have begun investigating the incident.”

The PUK Media correspondent in Dohuk also reported that “the bombing resulted in the death of two people travelling on the vehicle, and another person was severely wounded.”

@Dersi4m, however, wrote that three people inside the vehicle were killed and another one was injured.

Currently, further information is unavailable to Airwars.

The incident occured at approximately 11:00 am local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 3
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Aftermath of alleged Turkish airstrikes on the village of Ardana, Dohuk governorate, on August 14th, 2020 (via @Dersi4m).

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Araden (أرادن‎), for which the generic coordinates are: 37.10894, 43.31806. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 3
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TI046

Incident date

August 11, 2020

Location

Bradost region, Erbil , Iraq

Geolocation

36.747413, 44.398155 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

District

Airwars assessment

At least five civilians were killed in alleged Turkish drone strikes in the Bradost region, Erbil governorate, on August 11th, 2020, according to local sources. The civilians died alongside five Iraqi border guards and five Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members.

Armen Press reported that 15 people were killed in a Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq Iraqi, adding that there were five civilians, five border guards and five PKK members among the victims.

AFP reported that “two high-ranking Iraqi officers were killed Tuesday in what the army said was a ‘blatant Turkish drone attack’ in the autonomous Kurdish region, where Ankara has for weeks been raiding militant positions. The strike killed two border guard battalion commanders and the driver of their vehicle, the army said in a statement.”

Rudaw wrote that “an unmanned drone targeted a meeting between Iraqi border officials and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters and a military vehicle in the northern Erbil province’s Bradost area Tuesday afternoon, officials confirmed.” The mayor of Sidakan, Ihsan Chalabi, identified the two killed officials as Kurds Zubair Hali Bradosti and Mohammed Rashid Sulaiman.

@YourAnonAlerts wrote that a civilian father and his son had been killed in the strikes.

The drone strikes reportedly followed on a shooting between PKK fighters and Iraqi border guards the night before.

Global Village Space reported that “Iraq cancelled a ministerial visit and summoned Turkey’s ambassador as it blamed Ankara for a drone strike that killed two high-ranking Iraqi officers on Tuesday. As the number of civilians killed in the Turkish military campaign increases, Iraq grows increasingly weary.”

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 5
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–10

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

  • Photo taken near Bradost, shortly after the alleged Turkish drone strikes on August 11th, 2020 (via Rudaw).
  • Translation: “Two Iraqi military officers and seven civilians were killed and many were wounded in the past two months, as a result of air strikes launched by Turkish forces inside the territory of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Iraqi government and the Arab countries should not turn a blind eye to all this” (via @bestoon_khalid).

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the Bradost region, for which the generic coordinates are: 36.747413, 44.398155. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Reports of the incident mention the Bradost region.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 5
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–10

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Published

August 7, 2020

Written by

Mohammed al Jumaily

A protracted conflict against the terror group ISIS has left much of Iraq in ruins - though there are signs of rebirth.

On the fateful evening of August 7th 2014, then-US President Barack Obama gave a live address to the nation announcing the beginning of military actions in Iraq against so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS and Daesh), ushering in a new era of US involvement. The following day, US Navy F-18 Hornet fighters launched the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. Six years on, and 14,700 international air and artillery strikes later as well as thousands more by Iraq government forces, Iraqis are still reeling from the war against ISIS and its aftermath.

The conflict itself displaced over five million Iraqis and left schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure in affected provinces across northern and central Iraq in utter ruin. While statistics on the number of civilians who perished overall during the war against ISIS varies, Iraq Body Count estimates that 67,376 civilians were killed between January 2014 and December 2017. According to the World Bank, the total cost of the conflict amounts to a staggering 124 trillion Iraqi Dinars ($107 billion), which is equivalent to 73% of the country’s entire GDP in 2013.

It is also estimated that 138,051 residential buildings and units were damaged, half of which were destroyed beyond repair in Iraq during the long war on ISIS. Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has estimated that the conflict left 6.2 million people in need of targeted humanitarian assistance.

Beyond the cold statistics showing the impact of war on an already beleaguered country, personal testimonies of Iraqis themselves give a more visceral idea of life under ISIS, and the aftermath of the military campaign. They also speak to the ongoing challenges that Iraqis living in formerly ISIS-occupied areas continue to face six years on.

Life under ISIS

By the time the US began its military campaign in Iraq, so-called Islamic State had already seized significant territories in northern and western parts of the country including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city – plunging the nation into its most serious crisis since the US-British invasion in 2003.

The announcement of a US air campaign came shortly after ISIS’s genocidal campaign on the Yazidi community in Sinjar and its surrounding areas in Nineveh province had begun – and almost two months after ISIS’s notorious massacre [Warning: GRAPHIC] of up to 1,700 unarmed Iraqi military cadets in Camp Speicher. The next three years would see the lives of millions of people change radically. The terror group’s occupation of these territories ravaged communities and decimated the social fabric of many of the cities under the group’s rule. Locals living in areas under ISIS occupation recount wanton acts of brutality by the group, in a bid to enforce their control and dominance.

Khalid al-Rawi, a musician and community activist in Mosul [see main picture], describes the state of fear instilled by the group during their occupation of Iraq’s second city. “I know many musicians who destroyed their instruments [out of fear of being caught] or would go far away in order to play a bit of music… If anyone played music openly, they could have been killed, but musicians wouldn’t have dared to do this”, Khalid recalled to Airwars this week. “People were killed for the smallest reasons by them [ISIS] – I was one of the people who if they caught me, I would have been killed instantly.”

Ziad Ghanim Sha’ban, a lawyer from Tikrit in Salahuddin province, paints a similar picture of violence and fear under ISIS, particularly when it came to religious and ethnic coexistence. “Iraqi society, as you know, is like a mosaic [of different ethnic and religious groups],” explains Ziad. “We have Kurds, we have Sunnis with Shia parents and Shias with Sunni parents, as well as Turkmen in our community – we are one country, but when ISIS came, this changed. They rejected and fought this vigorously, and killed anyone promoting this [coexistence] – this instilled great fear in society and many families were torn from the community.”

Ziad goes on to recall how some husbands and wives who had spouses from southern Iraq – where the population is predominantly Shia Muslim – divorced and ran away to avoid persecution by the group.

War on ISIS and the legacy of the International Coalition

Following a series of gains made by ISIS throughout 2014 that saw the terror group control up to a fifth of Iraq’s territory and 6.3 million people (19% of the population), the Iraqi Government, with the support of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) consisting of numerous armed groups, as well as international allies led by the United States, began pushing back against ISIS, slowly reclaiming territory until the group’s territorial defeat in December 2017.

The role played by the US-led Coalition was instrumental in eventually defeating ISIS. The US-led alliance has declared 14,771 air and artillery strikes in Iraq since its inception, providing air cover for Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and decimating ISIS positions in northern and western Iraq. Today the group exists only on the margins of Iraq, harried by ISF and Coalition attacks. However, the human and material cost of this campaign has been immense – and experienced almost exclusively by Iraqis themselves.

ISIS killed and injured many thousands of civilians during its occupation, and many more died in ISF actions. Using local sources, Airwars has also to date tracked 895 separate civilian harm allegations against the International Coalition in Iraq. According to local reports, between 9,801 and 14,037 civilians were claimed killed in these incidents and up to 12,248 others injured. The US-led alliance itself has so far publicly admitted 688 deaths from its actions in Iraq.

Beyond this, the military campaign has left vast swathes of the country in ruins, making it almost impossible for hundreds of thousands of civilians – still displaced by the conflict – to return to their homes.

Khalid recalls a number of instances where families were caught up in airstrikes targeting ISIS militants: “I have a friend whose family, including uncles and aunts, were living in the same house. From what was explained to me, there was one ISIS member on the roof of the house so an International Coalition missile struck the building, killing 13 or 14 members of that family.”

Ziad also recounts the tragic story of his younger brother, who was killed by what he says was an International Coalition airstrike in Tikrit. “I have my brother, a child, named Muhanad aged only 11 years old, who was injured in an airstrike and died immediately and we have still, to this day, not received any compensation or acknowledgement from the Coalition.”

In almost all cases, those interviewed say that very few, if anyone, receives any form of acknowledgement or compensation from the Iraqi Government or from the International Coalition. “The reality is that as a lawyer, as part of a team of lawyers, we submitted more than a hundred complaints against Coalition forces, calling for compensation…In the end we didn’t even receive 5% of the compensation we were entitled to,” Ziad told Airwars.

Reconstruction and Reconciliation

Six years on from the beginning of the International Coalition’s own campaign against ISIS, the societal impact of the group’s occupation and the conflict that ensued has been transformative, and will likely remain with Iraqis for decades. In many parts of the country that were under ISIS rule, communities remain divided, and little effort has been made by central and local governments to bring people together. In the absence of government action, locals have taken it upon themselves to repair the social fabric of their communities, in the days following liberation from ISIS.

Khalid al-Rawi points out that despite the immense challenges faced by the people of Mosul and the difficulties of the last few years, the re-emergence of a vibrant civil society in the city has been an unexpected yet significant silver lining in the post-ISIS years. “A number of initiatives have emerged aimed at promoting reconciliation, which I myself have taken part in. For example, we went to Hamdaniya, [a predominantly Assyrian district, with a significant Christian population] and cleaned and helped rebuild churches; and a number of young people helped clean another church in Mosul.”

He also says that the city’s experience under ISIS rule has changed many people’s attitudes about music and the arts, which were previously, perhaps, looked down upon by many in more conservative parts of the city.

“There is a positive I see [from this experience], a new page has been turned for the youth of this community – a revolution has occurred….from an artistic perspective, before people [used to say to me] music is wrong and haram and if you learn music it means you work in a bar. Now that is not the case, there has been a lot more acceptance after liberation from ISIS.”

Music is back to Mosul.Mosul produced music for centuries and now it is all over the place again.Let's play music… #Mosul2019 #ReviveThespiritOfMosul pic.twitter.com/dTqIrTuDlq

— Mosul Eye عين الموصل (@MosulEye) October 24, 2019

However, Ziad paints a bleaker image of the societal impact of ISIS rule and the subsequent fighting that emerged. In contrast to Mosul’s civic revival, many in Tikrit are afraid to engage in civic activities, he says. “Since the violence we saw in Hawijah and Tikrit in 2013 against protesters and by ISIS during their rule, activists have not emerged in our areas because they saw the executions that would take place if they did come out… Even when protests emerged in Baghdad and the south [in 2019 and 2020], there were no protests in Salahuddin, Anbar, Hawijah and Mosul because [people] knew they could be killed,” explains Ziad.

In terms of reconstruction, efforts by the Government have often seemed futile, with progress slow and, in many cases, non-existent. Despite liberation from ISIS, residents of Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces face an uphill task in rebuilding their cities and communities, made even more difficult by government incompetence and widespread corruption.

Abdulrahman Mohammad, a businessman and community leader in Fallujah, who fled his hometown after the arrival of ISIS back in 2014, explains that upon returning to his city after three years, he found a city in ruins and a devastated local economy. “When we came back after ISIS, everything we had was lost. Our factories were destroyed. In the end, the economy of the province [of Anbar] had halted,” explains Abdulrahman. “Work is not given to anyone except to a specific group [of people] through patronage networks,” he elaborates.

“Anbar had 30 very large cement factories, each employing 500 people. To this day, these factories remain damaged and unusable,” laments Abdulrahman, adding that “Efforts to create jobs by the government are non-existent. None.”

The situation in other towns such as Sinjar in Nineveh, and Baiji in Salahuddin, is even more dire. According to the World Bank, 70% of housing assets in Sinjar were damaged, while in Baiji, 94% of residential buildings were damaged.

As Iraq now enters its seventh year following the beginning of the war against ISIS, many Iraqis have little faith in government efforts to rebuild their cities, and are instead forced to put up with the devastation wrought upon them by ISIS and years of war. While the post-ISIS period has brought security to the liberated provinces of Iraq – and has also created a space for local civil activism to flourish in certain areas – many know that there is still a long way to go before the majority can truly taste the fruits of liberation from ISIS.

▲ Musician Khalid Al-Rawi trained with his friends on the Oud secretly under ISIS. Once the city was liberated, he took to Mosul's streets spreading music and arts. This photo was taken near the central library of Mosul University during Mosul Eye's Save The Book campaign in August 2017.  Published with kind permission of Ali Y. Al-Baroodi