|Fmr PM Abadi talking with journalist Jane Arraf at 2019 Sulamani Forum (Twitter)
At the recent Sulamani Forum held in March 2019 former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi claimed that there were only 8 civilian casualties in the Battle of Mosul. He told journalist Jane Arraf only eight women and children lost their lives during the fighting. Arraf challenged him on that and Abadi replied that he went to Mosul and checked the figures. He said, “Yes… Less than ten. Eight … Probably the number eight has increased a bit, and that was at one stage. … I was there! Looking in the streets, looking who is going where, who is going around, I made sure that there were no civilians, only combatants.” He went on to claim that he had gone to multiple sources and they confirmed his figures.
Abadi’s statement reflects his government’s official version of events, which was that the Iraqi forces surgically attacked Mosul and avoided at all costs civilian casualties. To accomplish that story Baghdad not only refused to release any figures on losses, but actively denied stories where large numbers of civilians were killed. The March 2017 Jadida bombing during the Mosul fight was a perfect example. A U.S. jet was called in to hit an Islamic State position in a building and ended up killing anywhere from 100-200 civilians that were sheltering there. The Iraqi forces immediately tried to say this didn't happen. They blamed the Islamic State for making up the story and threatened to sue the media that reported on it. They went on to release two false narratives on what happened, one that claimed it was a car bomb that destroyed the house, and then that the building was booby trapped by the militants. That was contradicted by the U.S. led Coalition that admitted it might have been responsible, then said it did hit the house, and released an investigative report on what happened. How the government dealt with the Jadida event explains how Abadi could claim there were only 8 civilian deaths in the entire taking of Mosul. This one bombing makes a mockery of the former premier’s statement, but to him, it never happened, along with all the other casualties.
Just as a point of comparison, Musings On Iraq using media and human rights reporting counted 15,839 civilians killed during the Battle of Mosul.
Helfont, Samuel, “Requiem for Mosul,” Foreign Policy Research institute, 3/22/19
Al-Oraibi, Mina, “Failing to acknowledge Mosul’s suffering makes moving towards the future all the more difficult,” The National, 3/10/19