It is with this group where she was able to document a rarely-seen first-hand encounter of Kurdish troops taking back an IS-controlled village.
On this particular mission in September the goal was to penetrate, take control of, and liberate the village of Yangega, which at that time was under ISIS control. When asked about how much sleep he and his men received each night, Kurdish border police General Fakhraden Hawramy replied, “We don’t sleep. We haven’t slept in days. You can see it in their eyes, how tired they are. We can’t afford to sleep because the fighting doesn’t stop at night; it’s 24 hours a day.”
The Kurdish Border Police used preliminary tactics before advancing into the village. They took a fighting position near an abandoned football stadium and fired mortars and heavy artillery from tanks. After they believed ISIS had retreated from their fighting position, they advanced to occupy the building or “strongpoint” from where Islamic State was firing. Around the buildings the Kurdish border police uncovered many booby traps and cases of dynamite. Many of the buildings had been occupied by ISIS fighters not more than an hour before. There were scraps of food, garments, shell casings and other items that the militants had left behind when fleeing. Finally, the Kurdish border police reached the center of Yangega. At one point as they advanced toward a large house ISIS militants opened fire, forcing Trieb to duck quickly behind a wall from potential flying bullets, all the while continuing to photograph as General Fakhraden Hawramy stayed on his phone, giving and receiving orders. When the troops arrived at the center of Yangega the town was totally abandoned with the exception of dozens of stray cats and dogs. Border police immediately tore down several black ISIS flags that were mounted and began stomping on them as a symbolic gesture of victory. The border police, elated and simultaneously delirious, patrolled the village center until dark and continued celebrating. That night they were able to sleep for the first time in several days.
All photos by Erin Trieb for The Washington Post
Erin Trieb is a photojournalist and contributed text to this blog post