The mother of a missing son in Iraq, referred to as “Um Mohammed,” shared her heart-wrenching story of continuous efforts to uncover the fate of her son, who has been detained for many years with no information on his whereabouts. Despite her persistent attempts to seek help from government authorities and humanitarian organisations, she has not been able to obtain any information about her son. Um Mohammed’s face was filled with sadness and pain as she looked at her grandchild and her son’s wife, knowing that her missing son was the sole breadwinner for the family.

Um Mohammed’s story is not unique, as thousands of families in Iraq have been affected by the crisis of missing and disappeared persons. Official estimates indicate that more than 16,000 people have gone missing since 2003, but reports from human rights organisations suggest that the actual number is much higher.

According to political activist Nouri Hamdan, those who disappeared before 2003 can be divided into two groups: those who were not given justice and disappeared during foreign wars such as the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War, and those who were disappeared due to political protests that were suppressed by security agencies at the time.

Hamdan adds that a significant number of Kurds have also gone missing in the Kurdistan region, as well as in other southern and western regions, and anyone who opposes the regime on political, security, or economic grounds can be disappeared.

Despite the number of people who have gone missing, there are no clear and accurate statistics revealing the true number of missing and disappeared persons. As families like Um Mohammed’s continue to search for their loved ones, it is crucial for authorities to take action and provide answers to their unanswered questions.

Consequences of Endemic Violence

In the aftermath of multiple wars, Iraq has been left with a heavy legacy. Among the many victims of these wars are thousands of men who have disappeared without a trace over the past two decades. Despite the introduction of a new democratic system in 2003, those who have disappeared before and after that year have not been afforded the justice they deserve.

According to Hamdan, there is a major paradox in the new democratic system and its leaders, who claim to have been persecuted by the previous regime. They have also failed to do justice to those who disappeared before 2003, neglecting both the legal and procedural measures needed to determine their fate. Instead, they have been preoccupied with power-sharing, wealth distribution, and self-enrichment, without establishing a strict system to prevent the disappearance of Iraqis after the mentioned date.

The consequences of this endemic violence have been devastating. Thousands of widows, displaced people, and women who have lost their sole breadwinners are forced to seek employment in a tribal society that is entrenched in traditions and customs, making it challenging to overcome the many obstacles they face.

In the past two decades, thousands of men have disappeared without a trace, leaving behind families with children and wives struggling to cope with life’s hardships. Forced disappearances escalated in Iraq after 2003 and reached their peak in 2006, three years after the US invasion of the country. According to observers, the period between February 2006 and November 2008 witnessed the most violent stages, with thousands of Iraqis killed and abducted without their families knowing their fate to this day.

Ali al-Bayati, a spokesperson for the Commission of Human Rights, pointed out that “there are more than 8,000 missing persons who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, some of whom were arrested by ISIS, while others were abducted by armed groups and their fate remains unknown.”

There is a significant problem in Iraq’s absence of legislation criminalizing government agencies that hide and disappear people for years without due process. The lack of justice has created a cycle of impunity, with the perpetrators of these crimes not being held accountable for their actions.

The impact of Iraq’s endemic violence has been far-reaching and profound, with countless individuals and families left to suffer the consequences. The absence of legal protections and accountability for those responsible for these crimes has created a culture of impunity that has allowed these heinous acts to continue. Until the government of Iraq establishes a strict system to prevent disappearances and holds those responsible accountable, the tragic cycle of violence is likely to continue affect the lives of countless individuals and their families.