Submitted by Elisa Cherry on Mon, 07/15/2019 - 10:24

The first week of July marked the discovery of a mass grave near the former Islamic State (IS) defacto capital, of Raqqa. As many as 200 bodies were discovered at this time, but the mass grave could have more than 850 bodies buried in it, many of whom were victims of the IS. These deaths, some more recent than others, could date back to when IS first captured the city in 2014. There are a series of graves that surround the city that have been uncovered in recent months. Most of the graves, including the one that was discovered last week, were found near the Vanguard Camp, outside of Raqqa. Estimates vary on the number of bodies that could be buried in all of these graves collectively, and thousands more bodies are being recovered from the rubble within the city. The number of people that are still considered to be missing is extensive, and only a fraction of the corpses that are recovered can be identified from the graves.


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A team from the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC), the group charged with controlling the city after its liberation from IS, has discovered many of these bodies. This group from the RCC has taken on the task of uncovering the bodies as well as identifying those that are possible. DNA tested will reportedly be used to identify some of the bodies, but this will take time and resources, and may not be a viable option in identifying all of the bodies that are recovered. Allegedly, there are plans to build a proper cemetery to bury those who were buried in the mass graves.


Looking towards the future, there may be more mass graves uncovered, as the RCC continues working to rebuild the city. The number of victims to the IS in Syria will likely rise if more mass graves are uncovered. The RCC is also discovering patterns in the victims, those who suffered the same unfortunate fate may have been dressed in similar uniforms, such as orange jumpsuits, which represent the people of interest to the Islamic State. Similar mass graves were discovered in IS controlled areas in Iraq, in 2016. While it is clear that the IS killed thousands of people, this is only one area where ISIS was present in Syria, and there may be other areas throughout Syria and Iraq where similar sites are discovered in the future.