With the fight over, Mahmoud now returns to his neighborhood daily to retrieve the dead. He’s recovered hundreds of bodies of extended family members and neighbors.

A large, imposing figure, Mahmoud breaks down in tears when asked to describe specific days or events at the height of the violence. But without a moment of hesitation he said he believes the fight to retake the city was worthwhile.

Despite the death and destruction, he said he now feels like his family has a chance at a future brighter than his own.

“Everything can be rebuilt, it’s the lives lost that cannot be replaced,” he said, then shaking his head, added, “this war, it turned Mosul into a graveyard.”


Michael reported from Cairo and Hinnant from Paris.