This series of portraits looks at a slice of life for women in Iraq in the wake of Islamic State (ISIS). In Autumn 2016 the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, supported by a US-led coalition, converged on Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, which has been in the hands of ISIS since 2014. During this offensive I travelled around northern Iraq with Oxfam to look at the challenges faced by women. I met women at various stages of rebuilding their lives. Some had escaped from Mosul and been freed only a day or so previously and were now seeking refuge in camps. Others were heading back to their villages, rebuilding their houses with their bare hands. Still others were left in complete limbo, unsure where to turn next.
Women who have been displaced by war in Iraq or who are living in areas recently retaken from ISIS control are facing many difficulties. They have had to endure over two years of ISIS's brutal rule and have seen their freedom severely restricted. Countless others and their families have experienced violence at the hands of the militants. Though their towns and villages have been wrested back from ISIS control, their ordeal is by no means over. Men of fighting age are routinely rounded up for interrogation as they fall under the suspicion of having supported or fought for ISIS. Thousands of women have been widowed by the conflict and now find their movement restricted in a conservative, male-dominated society that frowns on women on their own in public.
Through their testimonies, and their resolve, these women tell the difficult story of the effects of war on the lives of women.
Abbie Trayler-Smith, 2017