Dead centre: Kurdish cemetery mooted for IS fighters

Dead centre: Kurdish cemetery mooted for IS fighters
Feature: A proposal for a burial ground for fighters of the Islamic State group is stirring controversy in Iraqi Kurdistan.
3 min read
11 February, 2015
There is opposition to the idea of creating a cemetery for dead IS fighters [Getty]
A special cemetery, exclusively for the bodies of Islamic State group fighters killed in battle against Kurdish Peshmerga forces, is reportedly being planned by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Mariwan Naqshbandi, head of media affairs for the KRG's ministry of endowments, first proposed the idea to the ministry's High Council. It is due to make a decision shortly.

"I got the idea after seeing the bodies of IS members being buried in unmarked graves and locations," said Naqshbandi. "After the war, this will cause much confusion as no one will know if the graves contain the bodies of IS fighters or IS victims."

In his proposal he asked for the cemetery to be fenced off and a sign placed at the entrance saying: "This is the cemetery of invaders." He also suggested the name and nationality of the dead should be written on each grave.

In many parts of Kurdistan, for example the city of Erbil, there are unmarked graves that some believe belong to sages - wise leaders from ages long past. Identifying IS graves now means that they will not, in the future, be mistaken for the grave of a revered religious figure.

Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region said that Peshmerga forces had killed at least 3,000 IS fighters - but buried only some of their bodies.

The Union of Islamic Scholars has expressed support for the project.

"The identity and nationality of dead IS members should be documented so people are aware of and know their enemies," said Mullah Abdullah Saeed Kourdi, head of the organisation said:

     There are many dead bodies on the frontline between the Peshmerga and IS fighters that have not been retrieved.

The KRG's parliamentary committee on human rights has also announced support for the project on humanitarian grounds.

The committee called for dead, wounded and captured IS fighters to be treated according to international conventions.

Daily news reports here mention scores of dead IS members being left behind after battles against Peshmerga forces. Anwar Hajji Othman, of the ministry responsible for the Peshmerga, said that 200 bodies were left behind on the battlefield after just two days of fighting around the north Iraqi city of Kirkuk.


However, the idea of creating an IS cemetery has been rejected by some Kurds.

"IS fighters want to occupy Kurdistan, they have no right to be buried here," said Rasoul, a Peshmerga official in Kirkuk. "They should be sent back to where they came from or be buried where they die."

Some Kurds voiced their opposition on social media.

One tweeter tweeted: "Today the proposal is for a special cemetery, tomorrow it will be for a commemorative monument. The best idea is to burn them to get rid of the bacteria."

Another tweeted: "What will Naqshbandi say to the mothers of our martyrs. How can the Kurdistan government even allow itself to discuss such a thing?"

The environmental bureau in Iraqi Kurdistan has warned the unburied bodies of dead IS members pose a health risk, especially to Peshmerga forces operating around them.

There are many dead bodies on the front lines between the Peshmerga and IS fighters that have not yet been retrieved. The Peshmerga have been unable to bury them out of fear of being targeted.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.