Hundreds of Thousands of Iraqis Remain Missing

Iraq has one of the highest numbers of missing people in the world, the result of decades of conflicts and violence. Nearly every Iraqi family is personally affected or knows someone who is.

Thousands of Iraqis have gone missing, many presumed dead, in violence in recent years.

People who live for decades without answers about their loved ones face devastating consequences, including emotional suffering, economic hardship, and administrative and legal hurdles.

Over one million Iraqis are believed to be missing in Iraq as a result of executions, wars and defections, of whom hundreds of thousands are thought to be in mass graves.

Mass graves in Iraq are characterized as unmarked sites containing at least six bodies. Some can be identified by mounds of earth piled above the ground or as deep pits that appear to have been filled. Some older graves are more difficult to identify, having been covered by vegetation and debris over time.

Sites have been discovered in all regions of the country and contain members of every major religious and ethnic group in Iraq as well as foreign nationals.

For families who are waiting to hear news about their missing loved ones, the government bureaucracy and inefficiency is slowly dimming their hopes.

There are significant challenges ahead, not least in securing the resources that will be required to address the issue of missing persons in Iraq.

This is painstaking work that does not deliver results quickly, but over the long term it will facilitate a large number of reliable identifications throughout Iraq.

The experience of other countries dealing with a legacy of mass disappearances shows that systematically accounting for the missing is an indispensable component of sustained post-conflict recovery.

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