Friday, September 02, 2016

Genocidal Intent

"We want to take them out of here. There are only bones left. But they said, 'No, they have to stay there, a committee will come and exhume them later."
Rasho Qassim, Sinjar, Iraq

"I have lots of people I know there. Mostly friends and neighbours."
"It's very difficult to look at them [within the mass burial mound] every day."
Arkan Qassem, Gurmiz village

"They are beheading them, shooting them, running them over in cars, all kinds of killing techniques, and they don't even try to hide it."
Sirwan Jalal, director, Iraqi Kurdistan agency of mass graves

"I was No. 43. I heard them say '615', and then one ISIL guy said, 'We're going to eat well tonight'. A man behind us asked, 'Are you ready?' Another person answered 'Yes', and began shooting at us with a machine gun."
A.S., survivor of Hardan massacre; Human Rights Watch account
A Yazidi mass grave in Sinjar, in Iraq© Ari Jalal
A Yazidi mass grave in Sinjar, in Iraq    © Ari Jalal / Reuters 

Wherever Islamic State militias stormed towns and villages in Iraq they left companions for the Angel of Death, in abundance. In Sinjar district, traditionally home to Yazidi tribal peoples, an ancient people worshipping an ancient religion despised by Muslims, Islamic State massacred thousands of Yazidis. Those who could, fled. They fled from Sinjar city up Sinjar mountain to escape the deadly predation of the Islamic State.

ISIL slaughtered the Yazidi men and the boys, retaining Yazidi women and girls  to be taken as slaves for barter and for sex slaves in accordance with Koranic injunctions sanctifying the use of women from conquered tribes as concubines. Now that Islamic State is being routed from many of the towns and villages they took possession of as part of their declared caliphate, mass graves are being discovered, in them thousands of skeletons of their victims.

Bones, suspected to belong to members of Iraq's Yazidi community, are seen in a mass grave on the outskirts of the town of Sinjar, November 30, 2015 © Ari Jalal

One young man recounted having watched through binoculars as Islamic State terrorists lined up men with their hands tied, leaving them unable to do anything to save themselves, as they were gunned down and piled into the waiting mass gravesites; buried with the help of a bulldozer. It took, he said, six days for the jihadists to fill one grave after another. He watched his friends and neighbours die. There are five mass graves at the foot of Sinjar mountain, resulting from the attack in 2014.

Those five represent a small proportion of the mass graves scattered in the geography of Iraq and Syria. A survey undertaken by the Associated Press has identified 72 mass graves, but it is expected that many more will be revealed, linked with the ongoing retreat of Islamic State from their shrinking caliphate. Locations have been identified in Syria of 17 mass graves, one of which holds hundreds of skeletons representing a single tribe, exterminated when their region was inundated by ISIL.

Satellite images offer a view of the city of Mosul's Badough Prison which in June of 2014 fell to ISIL which then slaughtered 600 inmates. This is the large city whose central bank released almost a billion dollars to ISIL when it embarked on its looting spree. Arkan Qassem had seen Gurmiz, his village, raided, with everyone fleeing up the mountain. He and nine other men returned to their village armed with light weapons.

A bulldozer's headlights shone brightly, illuminating handcuffed men being killed and the bulldozer then plowing the bodies. It took six days of three more groups to fill the graves. At Ramadi, close to a stadium, graves are covered over with a thin earth coating. When the prison inmates were slaughtered they were first separated by religious sect; Shiites were counted off by the Sunni jihadis. Some managed to survive by playing dead.

4 Mosul
Satellite images show likely burial site for victims of June 2014 Badoush Prison massacre. Up to 600 bodies could be packed into a roadside trench

5 Tikrit
Isis overran Camp Speicher airbase in June 2014, killing more than 1,500 army cadets and dumping the bodies in mass graves

6 Fallujah
In June 2016 the Iraqi army found a grave containing the bodies of 400 Iraqi soldiers killed during the two-year Isis occupation of the city

1 El-Horta
Hundreds of victims were found buried north-west of Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital

2 Abu Haman
Isis killed up to 1,000 members of the Shaitat tribe when they took territory near Deir ez-Zor in August 2014. Local residents found a grave containing 400 victims

3 Sinjar
Six sites containing more than 100 bodies found on Mount Sinjar where Yazidis tried to escape Isis advance in August 2014
Guardian graphic

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