The call echoes through the courtyard of a trash-strewn home in Tal Afar, a remote outpost in northern Iraq. It is late September and still hot, the kind of heat that seems to come from all sides, even radiate up from the ground, and the city is empty except for feral dogs and young men with guns.
“Habibi!” Damien Spleeters shouts again, using the casual Arabic term of endearment to call out for Haider al-Hakim, his Iraqi translator and partner on the ground.
Spleeters is a field investigator for Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an international organization funded by the European Union that documents weapons trafficking in war zones. He is 31 years old, with a 1980s Freddie Mercury mustache and tattoos covering thin arms that tan quickly in the desert sun. In another context, he’d be mistaken for a hipster barista, not an investigator who has spent the past three years tracking down rocket-propelled grenades in Syria, AK-47-style rifles in Mali, and hundreds of other weapons that have found their way into war zones, sometimes in violation of international arms agreements.
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Featured image courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps
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