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Unquiet Graves

The Search for the Disappeared in Iraqi Kurdistan

by Susannah Sirkin, MEd, Eric Stover, Pamela Blotner, Andrew Whitley, and Areyh Neier

March 1992

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In December 1991, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights sent a delegation to northern Iraq to observe and assist in the exhumation, identification, and determination of probable cause and manner of death of individuals interred in mass and single, unmarked graves.

Between December 23 and December 29, our delgation travelled from Zakho, the northernmost town in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, to cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in the south. In each of these cities, we interviewed relatives of the disappeared, former political prisoners, and Kurdish investigators and political leaders. We took testimony from grave diggers who, years earlier, had been ordered by Iraqi officers to secretly bury the bodies of executed political prisoners. We also interviewed a 15-year-old boy whose testimony may hold the key to one of the greatest mysteris in Iraqi Kurdistan: what happened to at least 100,000 men, women, and children who the Kurds say have disappeared without trace?

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