Last week marked a significant series of events and meetings in The Hague, Netherlands.
Khalid Qasim – Ezidi 24
International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) facilitated an event in collaboration with Farida Global Organization, titled “Awareness-raising about Yazidi missing persons for families in Europe.” Attendees included families of missing persons, survivors, Yazidi CSOs, human rights activists, and Iraqi authorities, including experts from the Martyrs’ Foundation Directorate for Protection and Affairs of Mass Graves and the Ministry of Health Medico-Legal Directorate. This gathering provided a valuable platform for dialogue and exchange.
During the event, survivors and families of the missing expressed concerns regarding the identification process of remains, which they found to be a lengthy and challenging ordeal. They further advocated for the creation of search and rescue teams to locate the remaining 2753 missing individuals.
Farida Khalaf, President of Farida Global, shared her experience of having given blood samples to different authorities numerous times, stating, “Our bodies no longer have any blood.” This highlighted the need for better coordination among the various authorities involved in the process, particularly between those in KRI and GoI.
Another family member of a missing person expressed dismay over the dissemination of information about their loved ones’ identification on social media, stating, “We deserve to have better communication. We should be the first ones to hear it directly, not from social media posts.” Such actions were deemed culturally inappropriate and traumatic for the affected families.
Moreover, some families lacked the necessary resources to provide DNA samples. Survivors had relocated to Europe, Canada, or Australia through special contingents, and providing DNA samples would entail considerable expenses and travel to Baghdad, among other challenges.
Overall, there was a clear need to enhance communication and outreach to families of the missing, as well as modifications to the current system to expedite the process. The families must be actively involved in this process.
The Iraqi authorities have released updated information on the exhumed remains and the process for identifying them. According to the Directorate of Mass Graves (DoMG), there are currently 1,700 reported missing individuals from the Sinjar region, with 1,800 blood samples collected. In Sinjar region, over 89 mass graves have been discovered, with 30 remaining unopened. Over 650 remains have been extracted from the exhumed graves, but only 163 have been returned to their respective families.
Finally, the Yazidi community expressed their gratitude and thank to Farida Global Organization and ICMP for giving them the space, platform, and seats on the table to highlight their concern. They appreciated the efforts on improving standards and supporting families in identifying their missing loved ones, as well as appreciating the efforts of DoMG/Iraqi authorities while urging more active participation from families and improved communication.