Mass graves in Iraq

Last updated
Human remains found in at a mass grave site in Iraqi Kurdistan, July 15, 2005 Iraqi mass grave.jpg
Human remains found in at a mass grave site in Iraqi Kurdistan, July 15, 2005

Mass graves in Iraq have become well known since the 2003 invasion of Iraq toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. International Experts estimated that 300,000 victims could be in these mass graves alone. The mass graves mostly included the remains of Shia Muslims and ethnic Kurds, who were killed for opposing the regime between 1983 and 1991.

A mass grave is a grave containing multiple human corpses, which may or may not be identified prior to burial. The United Nations has defined a criminal mass grave as a burial site containing three or more victims of execution. Mass graves are usually created after a large number of people die or are killed, and there is a desire to bury the corpses quickly for sanitation concerns. Although mass graves can be used during major conflicts such as war and crime, in modern times they may be used after a famine, epidemic, or natural disaster. In disasters, mass graves are used for infection and disease control. In such cases, there is often a breakdown of the social infrastructure that would enable proper identification and disposal of individual bodies.

2003 invasion of Iraq military invasion led by the United States

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War. The invasion phase began on 19 March 2003 and lasted just over one month, including 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq. This early stage of the war formally ended on 1 May 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush declared the "End of Major Combat Operations", after which the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was established as the first of several successive transitional governments leading up to the first Iraqi parliamentary election in January 2005. U.S. military forces later remained in Iraq until the withdrawal in 2011.

Saddam Hussein Iraqi politician and President

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was President of Iraq from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organization the Iraqi Ba'ath Party—which espoused Ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and socialism—Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to power in Iraq.



Some of the information below is taken from Fact Sheet - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Bureau of Public Affairs

Mass graves in Iraq are characterized as unmarked sites containing at least six bodies. Some can be identified by mounds of earth piled above the ground or as deep pits that appear to have been filled. Some older graves are more difficult to identify, having been covered by vegetation and debris over time. Sites have been discovered in all regions of the country and contain members of every major religious and ethnic group in Iraq as well as foreign nationals, including Kuwaitis and Saudis. Over 250 sites have been reported, of which approximately 40 have been confirmed to date. Over one million Iraqis are believed to be missing in Iraq as a result of executions, wars and defections, of whom hundreds of thousands are thought to be in mass graves. Most of the graves discovered to date correspond to one of five major atrocities perpetrated by the regime.

Iraq Republic in Western Asia

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Kuwait Country in Western Asia

Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait, is a country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2016, Kuwait has a population of 4.5 million people: 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 3.2 million are expatriates. Expatriates account for 70% of the population.

Saudi Arabians, or Saudis are a nation composed mainly of various regional ethnic groups who are native to the Arabian Peninsula including Hejazis, Najdis, Hassawis, Southern Arabs and others including non-Arabs, who share a common general Saudi culture and a Saudi nationality. Saudis speak one of the accents and dialects of the Peninsular Arabic, including the Hejazi, Najdi, Gulf and Southern Arabic dialects, as a mother tongue. According to the 2010 census, Saudi nationals represented approximately 19,335,377 making up 74.1% of the total population. Saudi Arabia is a state governed by absolute monarchy, with the king as its head of state.

According to Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, many mass graves in Kurdistan contain Iraqi Kurds, who were killed in a genocidal act because of their ethnicity.

Kurdistan Regional Government Ruling body of the Iraqi Kurdistan region

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is the official ruling body of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The Barzani tribe is one of the Kurdish tribes in Iraq. Notable members from the family are Masoud Barzani, Nechervan Barzani, Masrour Barzani, Adham Barzani and Idris Barzani.

Chemical warfare type of warfare that involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons

Chemical warfare (CW) involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from nuclear warfare and biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for nuclear, biological, and chemical, all of which are considered "weapons of mass destruction" (WMDs). None of these fall under the term conventional weapons which are primarily effective due to their destructive potential. In theory, with proper protective equipment, training, and decontamination measures, the primary effects of chemical weapons can be overcome. In practice, they continue to cause much suffering, as most victims are defenceless civilians. Many nations possess vast stockpiles of weaponized agents in preparation for wartime use. The threat and the perceived threat have become strategic tools in planning both measures and counter-measures.

Halabja City in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq

Halabja is a city in Iraqi Kurdistan and the capital of Halabja Governorate, located about 240 km (150 mi) northeast of Baghdad and 14 km (9 mi) from the Iranian border.

"PM admits graves claim 'untrue' Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered. The claims by Blair in November and December of last year, were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a US government pamphlet on Iraq's mass graves" [1]

US Senate committee investigations

Facts on the Fact Sheet appear to have been those gathered by US Senate committee investigations. [2]

The recovery of corpses is reported to be slow due to local violence and the need for identification of corpses, isolation of remains, forensics, etc. Relatives have rushed to the graves in remembrance of missing relatives.

The 2014 film The Blue Man, [10] which is related to The New York Times article titled "Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves" [11] written by John F. Burns, is about The Blue Man mass grave located in Al-Mahawil.

See also

Related Research Articles

The current territory of the modern state of Iraq was defined by the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1922 which resulted from the 1920 Iraqi revolt against British occupation. It centers on Lower Mesopotamia but also includes part of Upper Mesopotamia and of the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Desert. The history of this area has witnessed some of the world's earliest writing, literature, sciences, mathematics, laws and philosophies; hence its common epithet, the Cradle of Civilization.

Human rights in Saddam Husseins Iraq

Iraq's era under President Saddam Hussein was notorious for its severe violations of human rights. Secret police, state terrorism, torture, mass murder, rape, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations, chemical warfare, and the destruction of southern Iraq's marshes were some of the methods the country's Ba'athist government used to maintain control. The total number of deaths related to torture and murder during this period are unknown. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued regular reports of widespread imprisonment and torture.

Ali Hassan al-Majid 20th and 21st-century former Baathist Iraqi Defense Minister and commander

Ali Hassan Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was a Ba'athist Iraqi Defense Minister, Interior Minister, military commander and chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. He was also the governor of Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The Halabja chemical attack, also known as the Halabja Massacre or Bloody Friday, was a massacre against the Kurdish people that took place on March 16, 1988, during the closing days of the Iran–Iraq War in the Kurdish city of Halabja in Iraq. The attack was part of the Al-Anfal Campaign in northern Iraq, as well as part of the Iraqi attempt to repel the Iranian Operation Zafar 7. It took place 48 hours after the fall of the town to the Iranian Army. A United Nations (UN) medical investigation concluded that mustard gas was used in the attack, along with unidentified nerve agents.

Hillah City in Babylon, Iraq

Hillah, also spelled Hilla, is a city in central Iraq on the Hilla branch of the Euphrates River, 100 km (62 mi) south of Baghdad. The population is estimated at 364,700 in 1998. It is the capital of Babylon Province and is located adjacent to the ancient city of Babylon, and close to the ancient cities of Borsippa and Kish. It is situated in a predominantly agricultural region which is extensively irrigated with water provided by the Hilla canal, producing a wide range of crops, fruit and textiles. Its name may be derived from the word "beauty" in Arabic. The river runs exactly in the middle of the town, and it is surrounded by date palm trees and other forms of vegetation enhancing the weather and reducing the harmful effect of dust and the desert winds.

The Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT), formerly the Iraqi Special Tribunal and sometimes referred to as the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal, is a body established under Iraqi national law to try Iraqi nationals or residents accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious crimes committed between 1968 and 2003. It organized the trial of Saddam Hussein and other members of his Ba'ath Party regime.

Anfal genocide Genocidal campaign against the Kurdish people

The Anfal genocide was a genocide that killed between 50,000 and 182,000 Kurds. It was committed during the Al-Anfal campaign led by Ali Hassan al-Majid against Kurdistan in northern Iraq during the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War.

Badr Organization

The Badr Organization, previously known as the Badr Brigades or Badr Corps, is an Iraqi political party headed by Hadi Al-Amiri. The Badr Brigade was the Iran-officered military wing of the Iran-based Shia Islamic party, Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), formed in 1982. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq most of Badr's fighters have entered the new Iraqi army and police force. Politically, Badr Brigade and SCIRI were considered to be one party since 2003, but have now unofficially separated with the Badr Organization now an official Iraqi political party. Badr Brigade forces, and their Iranian commanders, have come to prominence in 2014 fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq. It is a part of the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Feylis are mostly a group of Shia Muslim Kurds whose heartland is divided between Ilam, Kermanshah, and Lorestan provinces in Iran and the eastern parts of Diyala Governorate and Wasit Governorate in Iraq. They speak the Feyli dialect of Southern Kurdish.

Sectarian violence in Iraq or the First Iraqi Civil War is a recurring issue throughout the history of the region, since the modern borders of Iraq were mostly demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations. The country, as established, was immediately home to a variety of religious and cultural groups that have clashed as power has ebbed back and forth between them.

1991 uprisings in Iraq Democratic uprisings in Iraq

The 1991 uprisings in Iraq were a series of popular rebellions in northern and southern Iraq in March and April 1991 in a ceasefire of the Persian Gulf War. The mostly uncoordinated insurgency, often referred to as the Sha'aban Intifada among Arabs and as the National Uprising among Kurds, was fueled by the perception that then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was responsible for systemic social repression and had become vulnerable to regime change. This perception of weakness was largely the result of the outcome of two prior wars: the Iran–Iraq War and the invasion of Kuwait, both of which occurred within a single decade and devastated the economy and population of Iraq.

The Directorate of General Security (DGS) also called Internal State Security, مديرية الأمن العام, secret police or some variation thereof was a domestic Iraqi intelligence agency.

Islam is historically divided into two major sects, Sunni and Shia Islam, each with its own sub-sects. Significant minorities of Shia Arab Muslims live in some Arab countries including Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, and Qatar. Shia Muslims are a numerical majority in Iraq. In Bahrain while the Shia currently form a plurality of the country's citizens they are a minority in the total population. Nearly half of the Muslim population in Lebanon and a quarter in Yemen are Shia.

1991 uprising in Karbala

The Shia uprising in Karbala was one of many major points of unrest in Iraq following the Gulf War. The uprising started after demoralized troops throughout Iraq began to rebel against Saddam Hussein. From 5 to 19 March 1991, the city of Karbala became a chaotic battlefield between the insurgents and the Iraqi Republican Guard. After the failure of the uprising, citizens were killed in large numbers. Parts of the city were nearly leveled.

The 2004 Qamishli uprising was an uprising by Syrian Kurds in the northeastern city of Qamishli in March 2004. The riots started during a chaotic football match, when some fans of the guest team (Arabs) started raising pictures of Saddam Hussein, an action that angered the fans of the host team. Both groups began throwing stones at each other, which soon developed to a political conflict as the Arab group raised pictures of Saddam Hussein while the Kurdish group raised the Flag of Kurdistan. The Ba'ath Party local office was burned down by Kurdish demonstrators, leading to the security forces reacting. The Syrian army responded quickly, deploying troops backed by tanks and helicopters, and launching a crack-down. Events climaxed when Kurds in Qamishli toppled a statue of Hafez al-Assad. At least 30 Kurds were killed as the security services re-took the city. As a result of the crackdown, thousands of Syrian Kurds fled to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurds in Iraq Ethnic community and nation

Kurds in Iraq are people born in or residing in Iraq who are of Kurdish origin. The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Iraq, comprising between 15% and 20% of the country's population according to the CIA World Factbook.

Camp Speicher massacre

On 12 June 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) killed at least 1,566 Shia Iraqi Air Force cadets in an attack on Camp Speicher in Tikrit. At the time of the attack there were between 4,000 and 11,000 unarmed cadets in the camp. ISIL fighters singled out Shia and non-Muslim cadets from Sunni ones and murdered them. The Iraqi government blamed the massacre on both ISIL and members from the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region.

The Ba'athist Arabization campaigns in North Iraq involved the forced displacement and cultural Arabization of minorities, in line with settler colonialist policies, led by the Ba'athist government of Iraq from the 1960s to the early 2000s, in order to shift the demographics of North Iraq towards Arab domination. The Iraqi Ba'ath party, first under Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, and later Saddam Hussein, engaged in active expulsion of minorities from the mid-1970s onwards. In 1978 and 1979, 600 Kurdish villages were burned down and around 200,000 Kurds were deported to the other parts of the country.

The persecution of the Feyli Kurds was a systematic persecution of Feylis by Saddam Hussein between 1970 and 2003. The persecution campaigns led to the expulsion, flight and effective exile of the Feyli Kurds from their ancestral lands in Iraq. The persecution began when a large number of Feyli Kurds were exposed to a big campaign by the regime that began by the dissolved RCCR issuance for 666 decision, which deprived Feyli Kurds of Iraqi nationality and considered them as Iranians. The systematic executions started in Baghdad and Khanaqin in 1979 and later spread to other Iraqi and Kurdish areas.


  1. Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor The Observer, Saturday 17 July 2004 19.35 EDT
  2. Saddam Hussein killer file Archived 2007-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Knickmeyer, Ellen (2005-04-30). "113 Kurds Are Found In Mass Grave". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  4. Burns, John F. (2006-06-05). "Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves". The New York Times . Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  5. "Expert: 300,000 in Iraq's Mass Graves". Fox News. 2003-11-08.
  6. Iraq's Legacy of Terror - Mass Graves Archived 2007-02-13 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Beaumont, Peter (2004-07-18). "PM admits graves claim 'untrue'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  8. "Babies found in Iraqi mass grave". BBC News. 2004-10-13.
  9. "Iraq uncovers 'Saddam Hussein-era' grave of 800 bodies". BBC News. 2011-04-15.
  11. Burns, John F. (June 6, 2006). "Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves". The New York Times.