Human rights organisations are claiming that there are over 8,000 people detained by ISIS in Syria and Iraq who are still missing.
Human Rights Watch recently released a report regarding people who have gone missing after being kidnapped or detained by ISIS over the past few years. The report sights Syrian Network for Human Rights, which claimed that there are 8,143 or more “cases of individuals detained by ISIS whose fates remain unknown.
The report outlined cases of abductions and disappearances of “activists, humanitarian workers, journalists, and anti-ISIS fighters from a range of groups, government and anti-government, as well as residents living under ISIS”. It recommended the authorities in Syria, especially the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, to prioritise this issue and investigate the whereabouts and fates of the missing persons. It has specifically proposed the establishment of a “civilian body with a mandate to collect information about the missing under ISIS”.
The Autonomous Administration is nevertheless lacking in funding and support. It has requested backing from international powers namely to resolve the crisis in al-Hol camp, where thousands of ISIS-affiliated individuals are being held. In addition, the region has been embroiled in military conflict between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military wing of the Autonomous Administration, and Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups, especially following the launch of Operation Peace Spring directed by Turkey.
Mass graves left behind by ISIS have been discovered on numerous occasions by the authorities in north and east Syria. Many of the bodies found in these mass graves include those missing persons.
Additionally, a large proportion of the missing persons is of Yazidi background. Thousands of Yazidis were kidnapped, especially women, from their homelands in Iraq and brought to Syria by ISIS militants. Several Yazidi families in Iraq are still in search of relatives who went missing following the massacres committed by ISIS over 5 years ago. The issue of missing persons as well as the psychological trauma of having lived through the terror of ISIS rule has left a deep scar in the Yazidi communities of Iraq. The mental strain caused by these issues has led to a sharp rise in the suicide rates within those communities.