A s Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul, Islamic State’s last urban stronghold in the country, more and more people are fleeing its reign of terror.
I travelled to northern Iraq to assess the human toll, but also the sense of liberation as inhabitants flee to safety.
Less than 30 kilometres from western Mosul, one elderly woman said the past few weeks had been extremely trying, marked by hunger and thirst. “We even forgot what tea looks like,” she told The World Weekly, sitting on the muddied ground in the Hammam al-Alil refugee camp, where she had arrived earlier in the day.
As buses reached the crowded reception site, more people shared their painful experiences. Many had made large parts of the journey from Mosul on foot, some even without shoes.
Politicians and analysts agree that IS needs to be defeated in a variety of ways, first and foremost militarily and ideologically.
But Iraq faces another enormous challenge: making sure those who have left everything behind can return as soon as possible to what is left of their homes (if they wish to) and are adequately housed for as long as the conflict continues.
Read our full investigation in the coming weeks.
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