A mass grave containing hundreds of bodies believed to be mostly Shiite Muslims has been uncovered at the site of a former Islamic State prison.
The gruesome discovery comes as Iraqi forces clear the area around Mosul, preparing for what the military says will be the final assault on ISIS positions.
As an array of forces dismantle Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate across Iraq and Syria, more evidence is emerging of the war crimes committed by the Sunni Islamist militants, who targeted Shi’ite Muslims and religious minorities as well as opponents from their own sect.
“Initial checks of part of the mass grave revealed remains with prison uniforms and lined up in a way that indicates they were shot dead in groups,” said Karim Nouri, spokesman for the Hashid Shaabi, a state-run umbrella for Shi’ite paramilitary groups.
One of those groups — the Abbas Division — is fighting alongside the regular Iraqi army, which in recent days jointly completed the encirclement of Mosul, about 10 km (6 miles) southeast of Badush.
The militants used the prison to hold their own captives including thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority, but blew it up some time before Iraqi forces drew near.
Human Rights Watch said in a report that as many as 600 people were killed in the Badush prison massacre, which took place on the same day that Islamic State militants captured Mosul in June 2014.
The militants corralled the inmates, who had been serving sentences for a range of crimes — from murder and assaults to nonviolent offences — onto trucks and drove them to an isolated stretch of desert about 2 km (1 miles) from the prison, HRW said.
There, they separated a few Sunni and Christian inmates from the rest, who were overwhelmingly Shi’ite, before forcing them to form one long line along the edge of a ravine and machine-gunning them down.
The report was based on the testimony of more than a dozen men who survived by playing dead or because they were shielded by the bodies of other prisoners who fell on top of them.
“We are waiting for forensic teams and human rights officials to begin unearthing the grave to uncover the whole story of how the ruthless criminal Daesh (Islamic State) killed them in cold blood only because they were from a certain sect,” Nouri said.
There may be many readers who believe this item is not newsworthy and shouldn’t take up space on the PJ Media site. It’s true that there is nothing new in reporting just about any atrocity committed by the Islamic State — we’ve heard it or seen it all before. The beheadings, the crucifixions, the boiling in oil, the unspeakable acts of barbarism carried out in the name of Islam by those who profess an adherence to that faith — all these acts inspire revulsion but eventually have a numbing effect on our senses.
But what if the internet had existed in 1945 and we became witnesses to Nazi atrocities that were known to some degree by allied governments but a complete mystery to the public at large? Imagine that as the victorious allied armies moved through former Nazi-occupied territory and Germany proper, the death camps, the slave labor camps, the mass graves, and the concentration camps filled with human scarecrows who were beaten and starved nearly to death became revealed over a period of months. Would our familiarity with the kinds of atrocities we were witnessing have caused us to tire of condemning the barbarity of Hitler and his henchmen? Or would we have wanted to act as witnesses to record for posterity the unbelievable facts that test our faith in humanity and challenge our inadequate understanding of true evil?
Holocaust deniers today are a testament to the need to document ISIS barbarity. There must be no future time where doubt about the pure evil of the Islamic State is ever questioned or excused.
We may not capture and put on trial the criminals who planned and ordered the atrocities. But that shouldn’t deter us from taking every opportunity to remind ourselves — and, by making a record, remind our children — that such evil actually existed and that we were witnesses to it.