08/08/2014 05:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

HONY Photographer Travels To Iraq, Captures Kids' Innocence Amid Turbulence

One photographer's global travels recently captured a glimmer of hope within an otherwise bleak landscape in Iraq.

Brandon Stanton, known for his successful blog and best-selling book, "Humans of New York," partnered with the United Nations to venture on a 50-day tour of 10 countries and expand his storytelling series worldwide. The tour, which started this week and aims to raise awareness on the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, brought Stanton to Iraq amid a turbulent civil conflict.

On Thursday, the photographer posted a photo to his Instagram account of three Iraqi children playing in the mountains, where they and their families are seeking refuge from ISIS militants. Their smiles reflect a carefree moment within a dire situation.

Stanton included the following in the photo's caption:

These children are members of Iraq's Yazidi minority, who are one of many minorities deemed expendable by ISIS militants. In the last few days, ISIS has moved into their villages and taken their homes. Tens of thousands of the villagers fled into a nearby range of mountains. Realizing this, ISIS circled the mountains with guns, blocked all the roads and waited for them to die of thirst in the 120 degree heat. These children belonged to some of the families lucky enough to escape. While their parents were panicking about their relatives trapped in the mountains, these kids found a quiet place to play. I found them banging on some cans. I asked them what they were doing. "We're building a car," they said. "Isn't that cute," I thought. "They're imagining the cans are cars." When I came back 5 minutes later, they had punctured holes in all four cans. Using two metal wires as axles, they turned the cans into wheels, and attached them to the plastic crate lying nearby. They'd built a car. (Dohuk, Iraq)

On Thursday, President Obama authorized airstrikes against the ISIS militants to defend both American personnel and civilians under siege. Friday morning, the Pentagon confirmed that a military aircraft dropped two 500-pound bombs on ISIL artillery being used to shell Kurdish forces, and a second round of airstrikes were confirmed Friday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.

Obama said on Thursday that American military planes had already dropped humanitarian aid to thousands of Iraqi minorities under persecution, like the above children's families, who are in desperate need of food and water.

To follow Brandon Stanton's travels, visit the United Nations' website.

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Yazidi And Other Minorities Flee ISIS