National Geographic : 2017 Apr
life after isis 123 A sandstorm tinges the view (opposite) in the northern Iraqi homeland of the Yazidis, enslaved en masse and driven out by ISIS. In Bashiqa, a small city east of Mosul that ISIS controlled until November 2016, families gone for two years have tentatively made their way back. Some of their homes are intact or reparable (above); others were obliterated. “I only know these men. It doesn’t mean I worked with them.” “I know,” the interrogator said. “What about Facebook?” “I don’t have Facebook. I don’t even have a phone to use Facebook on.” The interrogator asked about the warden of the ISIS jail Ali was put in, about checkpoints, tun- nels, artillery positions. The atmosphere in the room when the questioning was done was not one of relief. It was clear the interrogators didn’t en- tirely buy Ali’s story. The Asayish knew that many fleeing from Mosul lied about their involvement with ISIS. The problem was finding proof. One of the interrogators said privately, “Arabs all lie. All of them have had some connection with ISIS.” As the interrogation ended, Ali said, “I don’t want to go to a refugee camp. My wife is so young. There may be young men there. They’ll see her.” “We all have wives,” the general said. “I haven’t seen my wife in six months.” Ali and his family were driven to a camp. It was newly built, in anticipation of the battle for Mosul. The white tarps of the tents were still intact, the toilets still clean. Ali knew this wouldn’t last. His cousin Tayeb would begin the process of officially vouching for them. Hopeful- ly they would soon move into his house or that of another relative. What he would do after that, Ali had no idea. ISIS had redefined life in Iraq. There would be no return to the past. “I don’t care if they liberate Mosul,” he said. “I’m never going back.” j James Verini has been writing for National Geographic since 2012. His first extended online feature, about the war in eastern Congo, won the 2014 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. Moises Saman, a Magnum photographer, was born in Lima, Peru. His work has received awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year, and the Overseas Press Club.