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Excavation of 3 Kurdish mass graves begins in Iraq

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Excavation of 3 Kurdish mass graves begins in Iraq

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:45 pm

Excavation of 3 Kurdish
mass graves begins in Iraq

Excavation work began on Tuesday at three mass grave sites discovered in the deserts of Samawa, southern Iraq

The graves contain the remains of hundreds of Kurdish civilians, including women and children, killed during Saddam Hussein’s campaign of extermination in the late 1980s known as the Anfal, launched to punish the Kurds for rebelling against his regime.

“There are three mass graves and we have started working on one of them which contains around 80-100 bodies, mainly women and children,” Fouad Osman, spokesperson for the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, told Rudaw English via telephone in Samawa.

“Some of the skulls have blindfolds. There are cartridges and some remains bear bullet marks.”

The graves are located in Shaikiya, around 80 km southwest of Samawa, capital of the al-Muthanna governorate near the Saudi Arabian border.

Extreme summer temperatures mean excavation teams cannot work during the day. They begin digging at 3am and finish at 10am.

“There are around 400 bodies in these three mass graves and, once they are exhumed, we will take them to the autopsy department in Baghdad for DNA testing,” Sirwan Jalal, who is in charge of the exhumation at the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, told Rudaw.

“We’ll wait until such a time when the DNA tests are done for their families too.”

Only one person is known to have survived the slaughter in Samawa. Teimour Abdullah was 12 years old when Iraqi soldiers rounded up most of his family and other villagers in the Garmiyan region, south of Sulaimani, and transported them to Samawa.

Teimour and the other captives were shepherded into several ready dug pits then sprayed with bullets. Teimour miraculously survived, suffering a non-fatal gunshot wound to his shoulder. Cared for by a Bedouin family in the desert, he lived to tell of the horrors of the mass killings.

Teimour believes the three mass graves contain around 110 members of his immediate and extended family

“I visited the area in September 2009 and met the family who helped me survive,” Teimour told Rudaw English via WhatsApp from the United States.

“I identified these graves at the time by tracing back the route of my escape from the pit where my family were killed.”

Teimour is disappointed about the way the Kurdish authorities have gone about exhuming the graves. He has tried to speak to several Iraqi officials about his ordeal and says he should have been brought to the site when exhuming began.

“This is a tragedy. It is only ethical and humane to ask me to be present when they start the process of the exhumation,” Teimour said.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs said the decision not to invite Teimour was not deliberate.

“The door of the ministry and the government is open to Teimour whenever he wants to visit,” said Fouad Osman.

“This trip was done in a hurry and we only found out we were coming here two days ago. Besides, the Kurdistan Regional Government has not allocated any budget for this task and our hands are tied.”

Clothing and remains of victims remain in tact at the mass grave site. Photo: Rudaw

Hedar Zubir Barzani, whose father was taken away during the Anfal campaign when she was just five years old, believes the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities should use DNA techniques to establish the identity of the individuals in these newly uncovered mass graves.

“That is the tragedy that we have to deal with in this country. I have criticized the Iraqi government several times, demanding there should be DNA tests for the mass graves by the Iraqi government to help the families identify the graves of their relatives because that is their right and that is the duty of the Iraqi government,” she told Rudaw.

Teimour says he will soon travel from the US to observe the excavation.
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Excavation of 3 Kurdish mass graves begins in Iraq



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