Remains of 104 Yazidi victims of ISIS return home in coffins: where many of their families are still missing

On Saturday, February 6, 2021, after six and a half years, the remains of more than 100 victims of genocide arrived at Kocho village in Northern Iraq after the bodies were exhumed from mass graves.

A mother kisses her son’s shoe after his remains were exhumed from a mass grave.

The funeral procession was held with the presence of more than 25,000 people — locals, members of the international community, governmental figures, NGOs, local and international media, and surviving members of the families of the victims.  

The Yazidi community hopes that this step will be the beginning of  a recognition of the genocide in Sinjar perpetrated  against them by Islamic State in 2014.  But just the beginning, given all the sadness they hold in their hearts for the more than 2700 victims who are still in more than 80 mass graves. 

Amid a collective wailing of the surviving family members and friends of the victims, the remains were buried with special rituals with the presence of Qawals ( individuals responsible for burial), and with Daff and Shabab (a pipe and drum, musical instruments for burial and other special occasions). 

During the burial ceremony, a lot of the victims’ mothers and sisters fainted and were taken with stretchers to the mobile clinic. Those women were themselves survivors who had been rescued from ISIS captivity.  

Many of the surviving family members were themselves ISIS captives.

The Yazidi genocide by ISIS involved the murder of 2700 people (placed in individual and mass graves), destruction of 68 shrines and religious sites, and kidnapping of 6417 (both females and males). 2745 children were orphaned, and 85% of the infrastructure of the area was destroyed. 

During the burial ceremony, relatives of the victims threw themselves onto the gravesites, with women tearing at their hair and calling their loved ones to wake up from their forever sleep. 

Family at the grave of their loved one, a victim of the ISIS genocide.

There were speeches from many governmental, local, and international figures, including Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad. She offered a message of resilience and justice in her speech: “This is a tiny part of justice. Justice will not be fully achieved until all perpetrators are taken to court, our kidnapped sisters are rescued, and Sinjar is rebuilt.”