ISIS mass graves and the need to identify bodies

Yazidi woman in an unearthed mass grave in northern Iraq Yazidi woman in an unearthed mass grave in northern Iraq Safin Hamed/AFP

22 September 2020

In mid-September, another mass grave was found near Raqqa, local communities are asking for help and justice

 In the last few days, thanks to the initiative of the First Responders Team, the authorities of Raqqa in northeast Syria announced the discovery of a new mass grave of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) victims. 16 bodies have been found, on top of the 300 of the five pits encountered this year, adding to the more than 6,300 recovered in 28 graves discovered in the region since the arrival of the caliphate.

The authorities have been giving priority to identifying and cataloguing the bodies. The unidentified corpses are buried in a graveyard, while those recognised are returned to their families. The local authorities have highlighted the need for further technical and economic aid by the international community to identify the victims. Currently, it is not even possible to carry out a DNA test due to the lack of adequate equipment. While the actors of the international coalition have shown little interest in this issue, local authorities are lacking transparency regarding the data collected as well as the progress of the investigations related to the identification of bodies and perpetrators.

These facts have led to growing resentment within the community. Activists and family representatives continue to push for a communication-centred system, starting from the establishment of institutional tools to allow a better dialogue. Since the start of ISIS’ expansion, more than 8,700 people have been kidnapped, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. The need to know the fate of loved ones who have disappeared because of ISIS is shared by hundreds of families. The discovery of the deceased, after years of searching, allows people to come to a closure and give a proper burial to their beloved ones.


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Author: Matteo Consiglio; Editor: Margherita Curti

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