When Ali Thanoon lost more than 50 members of his family in a U.S. airstrike during the battle against Islamic State in Mosul in the spring, he turned to the Iraqi government for compensation.
But officials required Thanoon to prove his loved ones had been killed: He could get the necessary death certificates only by digging up their bodies from a mass grave.
That would take time. Thanoon had been trapped for five days under the rubble, then hospitalized for weeks. By the time a cousin was able to take Iraqi officials to unearth Thanoon’s two wives, seven children and other relatives, all they found were “meat and bones,” Thanoon said.
“What’s this?” said one of the officials. “We need to see faces.”
But there was another hard fact: The Iraqi government’s compensation program for victims of the Mosul campaign, even those with death certificates, had no money.
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