Discovery of mass grave in Babylon revives hope of accounting for Iraqi man missing for 33 years

Discovery of mass grave in Babylon revives hope of accounting for Iraqi man missing for 33 years
An Iraqi man hearing about a new mass grave discovery in Babylon waits for news of his father. / CC: Al Sumeria
By bne Gulf bureau May 15, 2024

A recent announcement of a mass grave discovery in Babylon has rekindled hope for a young man who was just a year old when his father disappeared during the 1991 Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein's regime, Al Sumeria reported on May 14.

Mass graves from the era of Saddam Hussein's regime are a grim legacy in Iraq, with numerous sites having been uncovered since his overthrow in 2003. Human rights organisations and investigators have documented around 270 mass graves across the country, many of which contain victims of Saddam's brutal crackdowns against various groups, including the Shi'ite and Kurdish populations. The Sunni-dominated Hussein regime believed that the majority Shi’ite population was working with the Islamic forces in Tehran and became the biggest target of his regime until its downfall after the US invaded the country.

Two days ago, suspicions arose about the presence of a mass grave in the Bab al-Mashhad area of Babylon Province during excavation works. The area, known as a centre of the Shi’ite community, was once under siege by the former government, leading to the abduction of many men to this day, all missing.

The Ministry of Interior, a team from the Prime Minister’s office, and the Martyrs Foundation intervened to investigate halting all work on the ground until a full investigation was carried out.

Babylon Police Command announced the commencement of excavation around the Women and Children's Hospital in Bab al-Mashhad, closing off the area to complete the search for the potential mass grave dating back to the 1991 uprising.

The announcement confirmed the discovery of the remains of at least three victims, with further investigations going on in the area around the initial discoveries.

A local Babylon man, a 34-year-old named Louay, sat near the excavation site, hoping to find his father’s remains in what is believed to be a mass grave containing the bodies of those buried during the 1991 Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein.

This uprising was a significant event where many were killed and buried in mass graves by the regime. Estimates suggest that between 30 to 50 bodies have been buried in this location for the past 33 years.

Estimates on the number of mass graves suggest that these informal burial areas hold the remains of hundreds of thousands of individuals. For instance, the 1991 Shiite uprising saw tens of thousands killed, and many were buried in mass graves across the country on the sides of roads.

Similar atrocities occurred during the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s, where as many as 182,000 Kurds disappeared, most executed and buried in remote desert locations, Radio Liberty previously reported.

The former dictator’s military equipment has recently appeared on its way to Ukraine as the result of a deal with the government in Kyiv and the United Kingdom, which sold second-hand Soviet-era military equipment to the Ukrainians via a third party on April 25.

Photos surfaced online showing 122mm Gvozdika and 152mm Akatsiya howitzers, their desert camouflage a dead giveaway of their origins after the military equipment was sold on a UK private military site called Tanks-a-lot this past month, bne IntelliNews revealed at the time.