The Fall of the Caliphate: Iraq and Syria in Transition

Hosted by LSE Arts

Atrium Gallery, Old Building

From the ruins of Mosul to the Syrian frontline, this photo exhibition offers a collection of windows into conflict and post-conflict themes in Iraq and Syria during the last days of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. 

After a near five-year reign of terror and countless killed and displaced, what little remained of the Islamic State organisation’s so-called caliphate fell to coalition forces in March of this year, putting an end to the crumbling of the jihadist group’s territory that had intensified after the militants’ defeat in Mosul in 2017.

Featuring photographs and interviews collected between 2017 and 2019 from the ruins of Mosul to the Syrian frontline, this exhibition takes the form of a polyptych divided into five sections, guiding you through some of the key themes and stories revolving around the fall of the organisation’s ‘caliphate’.

The exhibition first takes you to the Syrian frontline, from the resumption of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ “Al-Jazeera Storm” campaign against the last ISIS stronghold in 2018, to its foregone conclusion on the banks of the Euphrates earlier this year.

Stressing the complexity of the conflict, the photographs and captions highlight the diversity of soldiers’ experiences as much as the plight of the thousands of injured and starving civilians fleeing the last pocket of ISIS-territory as the final battle loomed.

The exhibition then invites you to step into Mosul’s post-apocalyptic Old City, levelled by the coalition’s airstrikes during the battle for Mosul and dubbed the ‘forgotten city’ by its inhabitants, struggling to rebuild their lives after the city’s liberation.

Finally, the photographs shed light on some of the ‘forgotten people’ of Mosul and Raqqa, from the fate of ISIS fighters’ relatives seeking reintegration into their communities, to the struggles those who suffered inhumane punishments at the hands of the jihadist organisation’s henchmen face in rebuilding their lives.

This exhibition is based on the work that Constantin Gouvy, a Master’s student in the LSE Department of International Relations, carried out as a conflict journalist between 2017 and 2019 in Iraq and Syria. For more information, please visit his website. The exhibition is co-organised by the LSE Department of International Relations and the Middle East Centre. 

Just economics and politics? Think again.  While LSE does not teach arts or music, there is a vibrant cultural side to the School - from weekly free music concerts in the Shaw Library, and an LSE orchestra and choir with their own professional conductors, various film, art and photographic student societies, the annual LSE photo prize competition, the LSE Festival and artist-in-residence projects. For more information please view the LSE Arts website.

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