With estimates running from 250.000 to 1 million people, Iraq has the largest number of missing persons in a single country. The Iraqi desaparecidos are the victims of 4 decades of dictatorship, wars, genocide and terrorism.
The teams of Mass Graves department and Legal Medicine have been traveling all over Iraq in the past 13 years, from Basra in the South to Sinjar in the North, passing through Tikrit and the river Tigris. Their journeys were the most painful and challenging missions ever: excavations of mass graves and exhumation of dead bodies.
From former Saddam Hussein’s regime until recent ISIS’s massacres, in the past 40 years the earth of Iraq has covered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people: missed from Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), Saddam’s political opponents, post-2003 conflicts, 2006-2008 civil war’s, 2014-2017 ISIS’s occupation, counter-ISIS operations. In the past years ISIS mass graves have taken a large portion of time and energy being 202 in total, while the number of the former regime ones is unknown.
The tireless Iraqi teams of Legal Medicine and Mass Graves Department reunite forensic anthropologists, doctors and experts who are uncovering crimes against humanity, identifying the bodies to return to the families of the victims. Starting from 2019, they’ve been accompanied by a UN international investigative team, which helped in collecting evidences to prosecute ISIS crimes, with their experience and expertise from Rwanda, Bosnia, Argentina and Cambodia’s massacres. The campaigns in the different provinces of Iraq involve the families of the victims to collect DNA samples and gather other evidences. Collecting Yazidi families DNA samples has been the most challenging task since many members of the same family were killed or left Iraq as refugees.
The team’s passionate, humble and huge effort is making the history of Iraq, they will have to work still for so many years, but their hope is only one: that the next mass grave will be the last.
Copyright foto: © Alessio Mamo