The Current

Iraqi photographer on the run for chronicling country's 'war crimes'

When photographer Ali Arkady was invited to follow the Iraqi military, he never imagined it would turn into a tale of torture and tyranny.
Ali Arkady is currently in hiding with his family. (Ali Arkady/VII/Redux)

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Warning: This segment contains disturbing content.

When Iraqi photographer Ali Arkady gained the trust of an elite unit of Iraqi soldiers, they invited him to capture their battlefield exploits as they fought to retake the city of Mosul. 
Ali Arkady captured gruesome acts of violence perpetrated by the Iraqi military while they were fighting to retake Mosul from ISIS. (Ali Arkady/VII Agency Mentor Program)

Arkady set out to document the Iraqi military's Emergency Response Division who were fighting a common cause across sectarian lines. It was to be a portrait of a new and unified Iraq fighting the good fight against ISIS.

He quickly learned, however, that his heroes were committing horrible acts of torture and murder right before his eyes. 

He is currently in hiding with his family after receiving death threats.

Photojournalist Ed Kashi has been a mentor to Arkady through their work at the VII Photo Agency. Kashi knows the pain and anguish that Arkady is carrying with him after his experience. 

I literally broke down and just started to sob.- Ed Kashi, photojournalist and mentor to Ali Arkady
"He's really on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His family has been dislocated; his father's in hiding. You know the people who are closest to him don't necessarily see him as a hero at this moment," Kashi tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. 
Ed Kashi, a photojournalist himself, is no stranger to working in conflict zones. (Ed Kashi/VII Photo Agency)

No stranger to working in conflict zones himself, Kashi had a visceral reaction when he saw Arkady's footage for the first time.

"I literally broke down and just started to sob. I was so shaken by it," he recalls.

Related: Torture and abuse through the eyes of Arkady

Toronto Star foreign affairs reporter Mitch Potter interviewed Arkady, who shared his photos and videos with him.

With regards to the willingness of the Iraqi military to have Arkady document their acts and be featured in his footage, Potter says, "There's a powerful arrogance at work with this unit. That much is clear."

When asked why he thinks there isn't more outrage or action about the images of torture and murder documented by Ali Arkady, Potter suggests perhaps people have become immune to such grotesque images in the media.

Related: How an embedded photographer exposed torture at the hands of Iraqi 'heroes'

"Have we been so bombarded with what some people describe as 'war porn' out of Syria ... the cacophony of dead images ... that people are desensitized to this?" says Potter.

"That it's just another clickable thing and they move on from that? I don't know the answer to that, but I don't think that's motivation not to publish."

Listen to this segment at the top of the web post.

This segment was produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Howard Goldenthal.