Decades of military conflict, and especially the past few years of conflict with ISIS, have brought about the existence of mass graves in residential areas throughout Iraq.
Like many others in liberated cities, Mohammed Ra’ad, a resident of Old Mosul, lived with his loved ones by his side. However, ISIS’ invasion of Iraq changed his life.
“My son was killed by mortar shelling, and I buried him here,” said Ra’ad. “This place is dedicated to being a cemetery.” Ra’ad noted that following the invasion of the war, many people started burying their loved ones near their homes or in various public places.
“This park was a large park intended for families and children,” said a resident of the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. “Due to the events and military operations, people could no longer bury their dead far away, so they buried them in the park.”
Furthermore, the mass graves that the militant group used to bury civilians that they executed have littered entire cities, with hundreds of mass graves and unidentified bodies found in the city of Mosul alone.
“Mosul became surrounded by graves,” said another resident of Mosul. With new mass graves being discovered every few months in the country, residents are hoping that the Iraqi Government can help them find and identify the remains of their loved ones so that the families can get their loved one’s death certificate and they can be given a proper burial. Citizens who do not know where their family members are buried are left in a situation in which they can do nothing but wait.
“They do not give us a death certificate until after the examination of the grave, and there are no graves.”
According to recent statistics released by the Iraqi Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, over 200 mass graves were found following the liberation of Iraq from ISIS. The statement released by the committee in late August 2019 says that the mass graves contain the remains of up to 12,000 individuals, although this number may be even higher.
A mass graves south of Mosul, named al-Khafsa, is reportedly one of the biggest mass graves in Iraq, containing the bodies of thousands of people. However, as in many other cases, ISIS militants have laced the area with mines, meaning that their bodies cannot be recovered or identified.
In order to try and heal the wounds left behind by the war, the United Nations sent a special committee to Iraq to document ISIS crimes and help identify remains found in the mass graves. With investigations still underway, many citizens continue to wait patiently to hear of the fate of their loved ones, while others visit their loved ones in one of the 2000 other cemeteries found around the country.