Mafqodeen - Uncovering Iraq (2017- ongoing)
a project by Alessio Mamo & Marta Bellingreri
With estimates running from 250.000 to one million people, Iraq is supposed to have the largest number of missing persons in a single country. The Iraqi desaparecidos are the victims of more than four decades of human rights violations, dictatorship, wars, genocide and terrorism.
The teams of Mass Graves department and Legal Medicine have been travelling all over Iraq in the past thirteen years, from Basra in the South to Sinjar in the North, passing through Tikrit and the river Tigris. Their journeys were the most painful and challenging missions ever: guiding their team in excavating mass graves and exhumation of the remains of dead bodies. From former Saddam Hussein's regime until recent ISIS's massacres, in the past 40 years the earth of Iraq has covered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people: missed from Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), Saddam Hussein’s era political opponents, post-2003 conflicts, 2006-2008 civil war’s sectarian violence, 2014-2017 ISIS’s occupation in the country and counter-ISIS operations. ISIS mass graves have taken in the past few years a large portion of time and energy. Only ISIS's pre-identified mass graves are 202, while the number of former regime's ones is still unknown.
The tireless Iraqi teams of Legal Medicine Directorate and Mass Graves Department reunite all the forensic anthropologists, doctors and experts who are uncovering mysteries and crimes against humanity, identifying the bodies to return to the families of the victims. Starting from 2019, they have been also accompanied by an international investigative team of the United Nations, which helped in collecting evidences to prosecute the criminals of ISIS's violence, with their experience and expertise, from Rwanda to Bosnia, from Argentina to Cambodia's massacres. Their campaigns in the different provinces of Iraq include involving the families of the victims to collect DNA samples and gather other evidences. Collecting Yazidi families DNA samples has been the most challenging task since many members of the same family were killed or left Iraq as refugees.
The team's passionate, humble and huge effort is making the history of Iraq, they will have to work still for so many years, but their hope is only one: that the next mass grave will be the last one.