The group found its most recent leadership in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and continued to fund its efforts mostly from stolen oil near Mosul, Iraq. It also thrived from financial contributions granted by jihadists in mostly Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Since its formation, ISIS has waged violence against anyone who does not adhere to their extremism. They have targeted Muslims who don’t not follow their teachings, as well as minority groups such as Christians and Yazidi people by submitting them to forced conversions, mass executions, torture and slavery. Entire Christian towns in Iraq were vacated, people fleeing to churches inside of Erbil, Iraq and then onto refugee camps. The United Nations has declared that ISIS committed a mass genocide on the Yazidi people with thousands being abducted in Iraq and taken to Syria, five thousand more Yazidi were murdered.
With the move into Iraq, ISIS’s greatest triumph was its takeover of Mosul, the second largest city in country. Iraq government forces led by a US military coalition, alongside the Kurdish peshmerga, and Shiite militias have fought to reclaim areas in Iraq controlled by ISIS. With most areas of Iraq liberated from ISIS control, the final stage to free Mosul from the brace of the terrorists began in October of 2016 and continues into the present.
According to UNHCR, the Mosul battle alone has required more than 82,000 people to seek shelter in refugee camps.
The area of Mosul east of the Tigris river was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq on January, 24, 2017, but the section west of the Tigris river is still under the grip of ISIS fighters. Iraqi forces began the offensive to regain control of western Mosul on February 19, 2017, a battle which is expected to last several months.
About the author
Bethanie Mitchell is a freelance photojournalist and multimedia journalist based in Seattle, Washington USA. Previously she was based in Myanmar for nearly six years where she focused on a long term documentary photography project regarding the historical and political changes within the country from its time under the dictatorship till its political opening and to the present. In addition to working as a freelance journalist and documentarian she works as a photography and multimedia workshop instructor at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, Washington.