Fifteen years have passed since US-led forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, but the aftermath is still vividly felt across the country to this day.
At the time, Washington deployed its troops on Iraqi soil because of an alleged threat to its national security and international peace caused by Iraq’s supposed possession and development of weapons of mass destruction. The US's argument eventually proved to be invalid after eight years of armed presence in Iraq failed to reveal any cache of such weapons.
The power vacuum after then longtime President Saddam Hussein was toppled and the re-ignition of sectarian flames pushed the country into chaos, setting the stage for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014. The group’s quick territorial gains plunged Iraq into further turmoil, bringing more destruction and terror.
It is always civilians who suffer the most. According to estimates, the death toll of Iraqi civilians during the US occupation reached 134,000 – and bloodshed and instability continued during ISIL’s control.
Data from the United Nations shows that 5.4 million civilians fled their homes between 2014 and 2017 when ISIL was wreaking havoc on Iraqi territory.
With ISIL officially defeated late last year, reconstruction efforts are cautiously resuming in the country for the second time in less than a decade.