It was nearly 2am on June 12, 2017 when myself and the medics were awakened by two Iraqi Special Operation Force (ISOF) humvees arriving at the gate; I knew immediately that it was another airstrike, another round of civilians in the wrong place (their homes) at the wrong time.
The medics treated ten people that night, among them were Lina, age 4, and Ammar age 8. Though they sustained serious injuries I am grateful that both of these children survived. Ali was not as fortunate; the young man died from blunt force trauma and arrived dead on arrival to the TSP.
The question often asked and debated is, “How should we respond to photographs of suffering?" I don't have the answer. All I do know is that Ali does not have a tomorrow. At best, he becomes a statistic, but in the battle for Mosul, like so many other conflicts, the record keeping was so poor that it is unlikely he will even become that.
A mothers grief is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. When speaking of death, there is a saying that suggests that it is often harder for those left behind. A bold claim but one that I believe to be true after sitting with Noor for several hours after learning that her son was dead on arrival at a West Mosul Trauma Stabilization Point (TSP).
Some people have been offended or upset when I share these or similar images with them. While I do my best to understand this reaction I must ask, how can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation—a picture—of a horrific event, while others are forced to live through the event itself? As battlefields become more remote and as technology makes war an abstract burden to the majority of us, it is critically important that we do not fail to acknowledge the reality and the truth of what war does to civilians. Tt is the responsibility of journalists to be a witness and ask the viewer to consider the real costs of war. It
The universal language of photography renders the concept of war less alien, less abstract. This is what it's like on the ground. Photography is not just about photographs; it's about communication. It's not about art and it's certainly not about me. Here my role to record and to then communicate with others what I have witnessed. I will never tell you what to think, but I will also never hesitate to suggest what you think about.