Crime

Mass grave containing victims of ISIS discovered in Raqqa

Syria

Mass graves are being discovered across all of ISIS' former territory in Syria and Iraq. The latest discovery has been made at Raqqa's stadium, which was converted into the group's central prison for the Raqqa region during the almost four year long occupation of the city.

A mass grave of civilian victims murdered by ISIS has been discovered at al-Rashid stadium in Raqqa, northeastern Syria. The total number of bodies within the grave is currently unknown, but so far dozens have been found and exhumed.

“This mass grave is one of the three or four large tombs in the city, there are also small cemeteries located in gardens or near houses and squares,” said one of the municipal workers charged with exhuming and identifying the victims. “When we arrived some families told us that their children were buried here, we [are] exhuming them and burying them in the mass grave made for martyrs.”

Some of the victims were buried along with documentation, such as ID cards. But others were simply wrapped in a tarpaulin sheet with the name of the individual scrawled across their improvised burial shroud. Many more of the individuals were buried without identification, forcing the victim’s families to determine each individual by their remains or their clothing.

Al-Rashid stadium was converted into the Raqqa region’s central prison during ISIS’ almost four year long occupation of the city. Site 11as it was known, was used by the militant group to incarcerate and torture individuals who had been arrested by the group in the city and the surrounding countryside. Arrests were often made for negligible offences, such as for smoking or not wearing the proper attire, which for women meant completely covering their body and face.

Very few prisoners survived their incarceration in Site 11. Accordingly, the discovery of a mass grave at the stadium is likely to be one of many, especially as teams of workers continue with the widespread clean-up and reconstruction phase of the city post-ISIS.

For every discovery of a grave, one more family is given closure over the whereabouts of a loved one, as well as the opportunity to provide the victim with a proper burial. In addition, the discovery of grave sites provides prosecutors with further evidence of ISIS’ violent crimes, with the hope that one day some of the militant leaders will be held to account for their actions in court.