The other war: living with corpses and stray dogs in the city of Mosul

Country/area: Iraq

Organisation: Assafir Al-Arabi (This investigation was carried out with the support of the Candid Foundation)

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 18/05/2021

Credit: Mizar Kemal


Mizar Kemal

Iraqi Journalist

Second prize: Fetisov Journalism Awards 2020 (Outstanding Contribution to Peace). Winner of Professional Investigative Journalism Award 2020 held by NIRIJ in Iraq. Short-list nominee for Fetisov Journalism Awards 2019 in Switzerland in the category of Civil Rights. Short-list nominee for Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press 2019 presented by the European Union for the category of “investigative reporting”. Third-place winner of 2019 ARIJ Awards for Best multimedia piece.

Project description:

This investigation reveals, through the testimonies of local citizens and officials in the city of Mosul, the spread of corpses under the rubble of destroyed buildings and neighborhoods, years after the expulsion of ISIS from the city.
It also reveals the suffering of the local population with epidemics, diseases and stray dogs due to the spread of these corpses in very large numbers.

Impact reached:

During field work on this investigation, we discovered the presence of 50 bodies of women and children in one of the destroyed houses, and the authorities were able to retrieve those bodies.
We were also able, through the investigation, to reveal the involvement of the governor of Nineveh in giving orders to bulldoze archaeological areas in the old city of Mosul. They bulldozed them without removing the bodies from there.

Techniques/technologies used:

I used several tools in this investigation, including Hunter.io for Email tracking in order to find certain Iraqi institutions, and also to access the contact details of persons who held responsibility in those institutions in LinkedIn.

Also, IntelTechniques tool for background checks and gathering information about certain details related to news that are spread on Facebook.

I used Evernote too, to arrange and save notes and records related to statistics and numbers, as well as the investigation’ interviews.

The Botometer came in handy for checking the identity of many accounts on Twitter that were spreading the news about the numbers of casualties and missing persons in the battle of Mosul.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The most difficult part in this investigation was the great danger represented by the presence of explosive belts, mines and other ordnance, which we had to deal with ​while documenting the presence and spread of corpses under the rubble of destroyed buildings and neighborhoods in the city of Mosul.
Thousands of explosive belts, explosives, bombs and mines are still scattered with the corpses, and many corpses of ISIS fighters still have unexploded belts on them, and sometimes we had to take risks to take pictures and shoot videos. These were hard times, especially as it coincided with the spread of COVID-19, which exacerbated the risk.

What can others learn from this project?

If there is one thing that can be learned from this investigation and all the investigations in which journalists take risks to expose a problem in the system or society, it is to appreciate the high value of the task of a free press to improve life on the globe, and to deliver the voices of people whose voice is not reaching the world as it should.

Project links: