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Based in Iraq

BETWEEN TWO FRONTS

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    Internally displaced persons, IDPs, carry their belongings after being evacuated to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq from the Fallujah region on June 3, 2016. Food and fresh water are scarce. Many of the IDPs are living on animal feed and rotten dates. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Internally Displaced Persons, IDPS, board a pickup truck to their next destination after being evacuated from the Fallujah region to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    A woman holds her child and belongings after being evacuated to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq from the Fallujah region on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Internally displaced persons, IDPs, take shelter in a building after being evacuated to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq from the Fallujah region on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Women carry their belongings down a dirt road to a bus in Al Saqlawiya, Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. These Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, were recently evacuated to Al Saqlawiya from the Fallujah region. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Internally displaced persons, IDPs, carry bags as they prepare to be transported to the next destination in Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Internally Displaced Persons, IDPS, all carry bags as they prepare to be transported to the next destination after being evacuated from the Fallujah region to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. A woman cries out that "the Hashid took three of my boys", but immediately changes her tale when a soldier walked by, for fear of her sons' well-being. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Internally displaced persons, IDPs, huddle together in the shade awaiting transportation to the next destination in Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    A woman walks through a camp for internally displaced persons, IDPs, who are awaiting transportation to the next destination in Fallujah in Anbar, Iraq, on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Two hundred and seventeen internally displaced persons, IDPs, are detained in a room awaiting transportation to the next destination in Fallujah with Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. When IDPs arrive at military camps, it is difficult for the government to know who might be an ISIS sympathizer and/or someone who is trying to get behind enemy lines. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of men have been sent to detention centers until it can be verified that they are not indeed ISIS sympathizers. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the frontline between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Four hundred and seventeen detainees gather in a small hot room, 300 of which have proven to joining ISIS, in Fallujah with Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. When IDPs arrive at military camps, it is difficult for the government to know who might be an ISIS sympathizer and/or someone who is trying to get behind enemy lines. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of men have been sent to detention centers until it can be verified that they are not indeed ISIS sympathizers. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Young internally displaced persons, IDPs, look out through the medical center fence waiting to be transported to the next destination in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    A mother cools down her child with water while waiting with other IDPs in Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and soldiers board a pickup truck to their next destination after being evacuated from the Fallujah region to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Dozens of underage ISIS fighters are detained in Fallujah, Iraq on July 10, 2016. They wait for their turn to appear before senior investigators from Baghdad to be interrogated among dozens of ISIS fighters who were detained over the course of the past few months. “They (Iraqi security forces) arrested me when I was with my family in a camp for the displaced in Ammoriyat Al Fallujah,” Mustafa Hameed tells the Newsweek Middle East.
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    Internally displaced persons, IDPs, cover their eyes from dust in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. The children await to be transported to the next destination in Fallujah. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    Two hundred and seventeen internally displaced persons, IDPs, are detained in a room, awaiting transportation to the next destination in Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq on June 3, 2016. When IDPs arrive at military camps, it is difficult for the government to know who might be an ISIS sympathizer and/or someone who is trying to get behind enemy lines. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of men have been sent to detention centers until it can be verified that they are not indeed ISIS sympathizers. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the frontline between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    A woman in distress holds her child and belongings after being evacuated to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq from the Fallujah region on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
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    A man and woman share an embrace amongst a group of Internally displaced persons, IDPs, that were evacuated to Al Saqlawiya in Anbar, Iraq from the Fallujah region on June 3, 2016. At the time of these photographs, this region of Iraq was at the front line between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee from their homes to avoid being trapped.
Between Two Fronts

Under the blazing sun and blowing sands, we arrived at a passageway used by IDPs who fled Fallujah. Seeing a man was a rarity as most were taken in for security screening. The majority of the displaced were women, children and elders.

The men were being questioned by the paramilitary units, or Hashid Shabby, as there were doubts about who had ties with the ultra-hardline Islamic State. Families who fled the combat zone had their men isolated and taken by cars to detainment centers near al-Thirthar lake of Khaldiya. The range of ages targeted was from as young as 16 to as old as 60.

During the moment of separation of one of those families a mother told me whilst crying that “the Hashid took three of my boys.” When a soldier walked nearby, she immediately changed her tale, fearing for the well-being of her sons.

At another spot near the Saqlawiya city center we met dozens of families who were trapped between trees and bushes for at least three days. They had been stuck in a cross fire between the Iraqi forces and ISIS fighters. By the time the media got to them, the families were split into males and females with children. One man had deserted from ISIS a week earlier and was hiding in the fields. The families didn’t recognize him, which placed him in a dangerous situation. A media member who reports to the security forces sniffed his hands for gun powder and checked for weapon-recoil bruises on his shoulder. The man deducted that he must have been fighting alongside the extremists and preceded to tell an official of the Kataib Hezbollah militia who accompanied them that “this man is Daesh, we will finish him,” using a derogatory term to describe the extremist group.

A week after the beginning of operations aimed at ending the siege of Fallujah, which lies 40 miles west of Baghdad, elite forces launched a new and more aggressive offensive on Fallujah.

The Iraqi government cited the fact that an estimated 50,000 civilians were used as human shields in Fallujah as a main factor that slowed military operations to regain control of the city. Aid workers had not been able to reach the city since last September. As a result, the population were living off stale dates, animal feed and dirty water from the Euphrates River.

Hundreds of families who were besieged inside the city of Fallujah and its various suburbs managed to escape to one of the military units stationed outside the city limits: Saqlawiyah. As they made their escape, ISIS fired indiscriminately upon them and they were even subject to the detonation of a roadside bomb.

The United Nations has warned that Iraq is facing a humanitarian crisis if more aid funding is not imminent. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced because of the fighting and aid agencies are struggling to keep up. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the emergency relief fund to provide aid to the Iraqis at risk not received two-thirds of the funding was for projects for closing.
“Until now, it has received only 33 per cent or $ 285 million,” the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday. “The only one-third of the funding appeal, and has already begun projects Closed

When IDPs arrive at military camps, it is difficult for the government to know who might be an ISIS sympathizer and/or someone who is trying to get behind enemy lines. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of men have been sent to detention centers until it can be verified that they are not indeed ISIS sympathizers. There are credible reports that many men who fled ISIS held regions were met with cruelty by Shiite militias. The situation is murky at best and promises only to get more complicated.

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