Written by Christian Stephen
April 24th, 2019
"It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since our report in Sinjar at the ISIS frontline - so much has taken place personally and geopolitically that looking at the footage is all at once familiar and distant. For Dylan and I, traveling to the Sinjar frontline in April 2015 stands out from our many trips to cover conflict for a few reasons - it was a time when our youthful fearlessness began to realize it’s own frailty, and a need to push past that fear resulted in the first of many sobering close-calls.
Much has been written and said about the nature of covering conflict, yet little is understood about the growth that forces itself upon you after surviving it.
For us, Sinjar represented a culmination of the first chapter of our story, a duo that would go anywhere no matter how dangerous without sparing a thought for whether it was out of wisdom or simply hubris. The simple fact was, we had now entered into an inescapable lesson from which we would emerge shaken, but humbled.
Our hearts were always in the right place when pursuing a story, and this was no different - however as we entered the tactical vehicle with the Kurdish Peshmerga, we couldn't know that this trip would dictate the next era of our work. An era that is awed by the destruction humans can visit upon each other, but also the hope found within the hellfire.
Approaching the frontline we were struck by a direct hit from an ISIS mortar that miraculously was a dud, and upon reaching the edge of the Peshmerga defenses we observed an utter maelstrom of black smoke and rifle cracks.
Radio chatter intercepted from the ISIS positions hummed in the trenches, and the excitement of being in another active zone disappeared and laid bare the fundamental truth that we were most definitely about to encounter one of the most contested areas of battleground in the entire war on ISIS.