Accounting for the Yazidis Killed by ISIS

This article, by Eva Huson, should interest readers of this blog.

In short, we learn that the locations of mass graves of Yazidi victims of ISIS are known.  Yet these graves are not getting excavated because of sovereignty disputes between the Iraqi government, the Kurdish Regional Government [KRG] and the PKK (which is a Kurdish rival to the KRG in the area).

The article also gives us this disturbing paragraph:

The KRG has had trouble conducting exhumations unilaterally. Last year, Human Rights Watch reported that a KRG research team overseen by Mustafa had made an unauthorized exhumation, transferring 65 bodies to a mortuary in the Kurdish city of Dohuk. Mustafa admitted to the human rights organization that the excavation was “not so professional.”

I won’t pretend the issues are easy.  The problem goes beyond the thorny dispute over the establishment of a Kurdish state. This is because the area in question has been outside of  KRG territory until recently.  The war against ISIS drew both the KRG and the PKK into the area.  Now they want to stay and, of course, Baghdad wants them out along with ISIS.   The fighting groups, none of them Yazidis, fear that coming to terms on a mass-grave excavation might compromise their territorial claims.  The article provides no reason to hope for a solution that will help the Yazidis.

So everything is stuck for now and for the forseeable future – no excavations.

The survivors would like to get as much closure as they can get as soon as they can get it so waiting clearly hurts them.  Moreover, waiting creates opportunities for interested parties to tamper with the evidence.  I presume there are other ways that the potential knowlege from an excavation also declines with the passage of time.  However, I am not an expert on this question and would love to hear from a forensic scientist.


I want to mention one last thing before signing off.

A few weeks ago the results of a survey of Yazidi survivors was published.  This is a serious effort to quantify the number of Yazidis killed and kidnapped by ISIS.  It also provides estimates on things such as the demographics of the victims and how they were killed.

I will probably have a close look at these estimates in an upcoming post but for now I just want to make sure my readers know about it.