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Three Years Gone:
Salahaddin Families Appeal To PM To Find Missing Relatives

Ghazwan Hassan al-Jibouri
Salahaddin families had hoped when the city of Mosul was cleared of extremists, they'd find out what happened to missing loved ones. But three years later they still don’t know. Now they’re asking the prime minister.
31.05.2018  |  Tikrit
Where are they? So many checkpoints in Salahaddin, so few answers. (photo: شرطة صلاح الدين)
Where are they? So many checkpoints in Salahaddin, so few answers. (photo: شرطة صلاح الدين)

“On June 30, 2015, a joint force made up of the Iraqi army and members of the league of the Righteous [a Shiite Muslim militia] raided our area, Sayed Gharib,” says one local woman who wished only to be known as Um Mustafa, or Mustafa’s mother. “They took all of our food stores, our phones and our cars and left us with nothing. They also took all the men aged over 17 and we know nothing about what happened to them.”

Um Mustafa now lives in a house under construction on a deserted farm in the Ishaqi area, around 100 kilometres north of Baghdad, with nine others. All are women and children. Um Mustafa says that in June, 16 men from her family were detained, including her husband, two sons, her brother and his six sons. She has tried to find them and asked for help wherever she is able, including with the Red Cross and other human rights organizations.

There are many similar stories – of convoys of vehicles arriving in villages and taking people away, or of random arrests by mysterious forces.

“I found out they were still alive because I saw them on television, shown as suspected members of the Islamic State,” she explains. “So I’m still searching for them.”

The situation has become even more confusing after fighting in the area. When civilians are kidnapped by anybody wearing a uniform, fingers are pointed at the government or at the Shiite Muslim militias. When army, police or militia members are kidnapped by anybody wearing a uniform, fingers are pointed at the Islamic State, or IS, group in disguise. But truth be told, nobody knows where the missing people are.

“We have contacted official and unofficial groups but we have no idea where he is,” says Tariq Mahmoud, whose 73-year-old father was kidnapped along with other villagers. “The strangest thing is that we still don’t know why he was taken. There were members of the police force, members of the militias and people from our village all fighting the IS group together, just a few kilometres away. All of them were kidnapped during the same time.”

There are many similar stories – of convoys of vehicles arriving in villages and taking people away, or of random arrests by mysterious forces, who may or may not have been official. The cities from which the most people are missing are Samarra, Tikrit, Dora, Baiji, Ishaqi and Dujail, of which Sayed Gharib is a district.

When the sitting Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, paid his first visit after the security crisis in April this year, many of the locals he met asked him to investigate the disappearances. He has promised to do so.

“The council has also submitted an official request to help discover the fate of the missing persons,” Sabhan Mulla Jihad, a member of the provincial council, told NIQASH. “There are more than 2,000 people missing in the province and the prime minister has promised to give us an answer in coming days.”

There is no single city in this province where somebody has not been disappeared, states Ahmad Abdullah al-Jibouri, the governor of Salahaddin, adding that he believes there could be as many as 3,000 people missing. He notes that some of the disappeared have been found imprisoned and released but that only equals a handful.

An MP for Salahaddin, Diya al-Dour, says that thousands are missing and that it is the Iraqi government, and the prime minister’s responsibility, to reveal the fate of those who have been kidnapped. “Those who involved in the disappearances must also be held responsible,” he said.  

 

A Salahaddin civilian speaking with police.

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