What You Aren't Being Told About Mosul

With Mosul making headlines around the world this week, there are a lot of people tuned in to things here right now.

That said, from our vantage point on the ground and on the front lines of this crisis, there are a few things you might be hearing that aren’t quite right, or don’t tell the whole story—and we want to provide some clarity. They aren’t totally wrong, per se, but they’re off, and we think you deserve to know the full story. 

Here are five things you may not have been told about Mosul... 

BREAKING: ISIS Sleeper Cells Launch Attack on Kirkuk

At this moment, our beloved Kirkuk, an oil-rich city of nearly a million people, just a short drive from our Iraq office, is under attack by ISIS.

Reports say ISIS "sleeper units" attacked a police compound and a power station northwest of the city, in addition to several other small-scale attacks meant to create chaos and divert attention from the operation to liberate Mosul. 

We've been in touch with friends and partners inside Kirkuk. Here is what we've learned so far...

4 Things Clinton and Trump Got Wrong About Mosul in Last Night’s Debate

Mosul's children are more than just a debate topic or a political talking point.

The battle for Mosul was a major topic at the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Several minutes into the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked what is arguably the most pressing question about Mosul, the battle with ISIS, and the whole future of Iraq: 

If [Iraqi forces] are successful in pushing ISIS out of that city and out of all of Iraq, the question then becomes: What happens the day after? 

Why Didn't Mosul Families Flee ISIS While They Had the Chance?

Displaced families near Mosul receive food packages and hygiene kits, after their town was liberated from ISIS

One million civilians remain in ISIS-held Mosul today. The battle to dislodge the militant group will force many residents—if not all of them—to run for their lives, triggering a massive refugee crisis.

Which begs the question: Why didn’t Mosul families flee when they had the chance? Why didn’t they take a hint when ISIS first occupied the city—or as the final battle for Mosul drew near?

Two Years of Hell: Life Inside Mosul

Displaced children from the Mosul corridor

Mosul wasn’t a perfect city when ISIS seized control more than two years ago. Like many urban centers, Mosul had issues—a crumbling infrastructure, racial and religious divisions, a municipal government that was seen to be corrupt, and a federal government seen as unfair, and unresponsive to its people. But this "Pearl of the North" was certainly a vibrant city, and a beloved home to millions.

Battle for Mosul: Front Line Update

As the battle for Mosul enters its fourth day, here’s the latest from the front lines…

Iraqi forces continue their push toward Mosul. One of the Kurdish generals participating in the battle predicts it will take two weeks to reach the city itself, and two months to liberate it. 

Mosul: We Were Here Before ISIS, We'll Be Here After They're Gone

The battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS is underway.

We were here in Iraq long before ISIS, driven by this foundational belief that preemptive love can unmake violence, even in the hardest conflicts on earth.

We were here when ISIS swept across Iraq, exploiting the legitimate grievances of marginalized people for their own gain. We watched in horror as city after city fell. The date June 10, 2014 is etched in our memories. That was the day Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell. 

The Battle For Mosul Has Begun: 5 Things You Need to Know

The battle for Mosul has begun.

This is big. Mosul is big. This offensive will be really, really big. Mosul is the most populous city under ISIS control. It's their capital in Iraq.

Peacemaker Fridays: October 14, 2016

Meditation, not detention in Baltimore schools; Minnesota communities unite to find healing; and global poverty on the decline (no, really).

Here are the week's best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace...

Will I Return to Mosul After ISIS Is Defeated? It's Complicated.

Tigris River, Mosul

Once upon a time, there was a foolish voice inside my head that whispered that I could forgot about my hometown, that Mosul could be left behind just because I packed my bags and went. That foolish voice is gone now.

The third year of my displacement is about to end and I still travel the Mosul of my memories, visiting the alleyways, the schools and the houses that I knew for 40 years.

Nadia Murad: I'll Go Back to My Life When Enslaved Women Go Back to Theirs

Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who escaped ISIS, addresses the UN Security Council (UN / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We sat on the cool tile floor of our friend Faris' living room, curtains drawn to keep out the heat of the day. Small glasses of hot, sugary tea sat on the tile nearby, just off the edge of our mat. The simple house felt comfortable, calm, and impeccably clean. Not what most would expect for a refugee whose people, the Yazidis, were targeted for extermination by ISIS.

Faris' home was an oasis.

Liberation Must Be Coming: Millions Wait to Go Home as Mosul Battle Looms

It's all been leading up to this.

Fallujah. Haditha. Tikrit. And so many other communities across Iraq. They've all been wrenched back from ISIS. 

And now it's time for the crown jewel: Mosul.

3 Reasons People Joined ISIS (And Why You And I Would Have, Too)

Day Donaldson / CC BY 2.0


Mass executions.

Sexual enslavement.

No, how could we ever be like ISIS? They are evil. They are monsters. We have absolutely nothing in common with them.

That’s what I’d prefer to believe, anyway. That distance separating me and my people from groups like ISIS makes me feel better. It makes for better sleep. It keeps things simple.

5 Questions About the Syrian Civil War You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

Fighting in Aleppo (Goran Tomasevec / CC BY-ND 2.0)

We've all heard the heartbreaking stories coming out of Syria. We were reminded of one of them during Sunday’s presidential debate, when moderator Martha Raddatz brought up five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, the little boy who was pulled from the rubble in Aleppo. 

"But there are much worse images coming out of Aleppo every day," Raddatz told candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. "In the past few weeks alone, 400 people have been killed, at least 100 of them children."

Syria is overwhelming. 

Peacemaker Fridays: October 7, 2016

We normally share a few stories with you for Peacemaker Friday, but this week, one story stood out so much, that we think it’s worth spending a little extra time with. It's the story of an unassuming French man named Adolfo Kamisky, who quietly saved thousands of lives.

What Kind of Bombs Are Falling on Aleppo... And Why it Matters

Bana Alabed on Twitter

The more we’re exposed to something, the more we learn to recognize it—immediately, intuitively.

We recognize the voices of those we love, those we live with, without even seeing their faces. Bird enthusiasts can pick out a particular species from a forest filled with sound. Car lovers can recognize the make and model of any car, simply by the shape of its headlights.

People who live in war zones learn to recognize the things they’re exposed to most, too—namely, the implements of war. 

Inside Aleppo: 7-Year-Old Girl Tweets for Her Life

You probably have a young girl like Bana in your life. She’s seven years old, well spoken, and mature for her age. She loves a little bling and often wears her hair in fancy braids. She adores her two younger brothers and often reads and colors with them.

She wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

But Bana’s life is very different from any 7-year-old you know. She lives in eastern Aleppo.

Out of the Caliphate, Into the Fire: These Refugees Are Determined to Rebuild

"We know people who joined ISIS. Many did."

The young man runs a sleeve over his face and blinks at the hot sun. Behind him sits a pile of burnt, twisted air coolers and charred bed frames—vestiges of the fire that tore through his refugee camp in Iraq recently. 

ISIS Digs in as Battle for Iraq's Second City Looms

Mosul, captured by ISIS in 2014 (Photo: Omar Siddeeq Yousif / CC BY 4.0)

In Mosul, members of ISIS know full well that the city will be attacked soon. Rumor has it the fight for Mosul, the extremists’ last large stronghold in Iraq, could begin as soon as October.

As a result, they are preparing, night and day, to defend the city they have controlled for over two years now. Residents say the noise from construction equipment hasn't stopped for the past two weeks.

There Is One Less Major Conflict in the World Today. And That Gives Us Hope.

Treaty signed by Colombian government and rebel leaders (courtesy the Presidency of the Republic of Colombia)

It’s hard to stand in a place like Syria, see the devastation, and believe the fighting will ever stop. Not after five-and-a-half years of bloodshed and more broken ceasefires that anyone can remember. 

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