2017 Photo Contest, General News, 2nd prize

Sergey Ponomarev

The New York Times

01 December, 2016

A biblical mural, defaced by IS, in Bartella, a town with a large Christian population, 23 kilometers east of Mosul. When IS seized the town in 2014, they had given Christians who wished to stay the choice of converting to Islam, or paying a special tax.

The Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), backed by US and coalition forces, began an offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group (IS) in October. IS had been entrenched in Mosul for more than two years. The Iraqi government initially dropped leaflets over the city, asking residents to stay in their homes. Many people were caught in the crossfire, but some chose to escape. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states that more than 96,800 people were displaced in Mosul between October and December, while around one million civilians remained trapped in the city, running low on food and drinking water and facing increasing retaliation by IS fighters. The Iraqi strategy of asking civilians to remain was aimed at averting a humanitarian crisis set off by hundreds of thousands fleeing, and at facilitating resistance to IS from within the city. As numbers caught up in the battle escalated, and fears of IS retaliation grew, many preferred to face the risks of leaving.

About the photographer

Sergey Ponomarev

Before becoming a freelancer in 2012, Sergey worked for the Associated Press starting in 2003. He has won many international and domestic photography awards. Most recently, he w...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
44.0 mm
Nikon D810

This image is collected in