Doctor Zaid and Mister Dhia together with their teams had travelled all over Iraq in the past ten years, from Basra in the South to Sinjar in the North, passing through Tikrit and the river Tigris. But their journeys were the most painful and challenging missions ever: guiding their team in excavating mass graves and exhumation of dead bodies.
From former Saddam Hussein’s regime until recent ISIS’s massacres, in the past 40 years the earth of Iraq has covered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people: missed from Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), Saddam Hussein’s era, post-2003 conflicts, 2006-2008 civil war’s sectarian violence, 2014-2017 ISIS’s occupation in the country and counter-ISIS operations. Estimates run from a 250.000 to one million people missing from decades of conflicts and human rights abuses. It might be the world’s largest number of missing persons in a single country- the Iraqi desaparecidos.
The tireless Iraqi teams of Legal Medicine Directorate and Mass Graves Department reunite all the forensic anthropologists, doctors and experts who are uncovering mysteries and crimes against humanity, identifying the bodies to return to the families of the victims. Starting from 2019, they are accompanied by an international investigative team of the United Nations, which will help in collecting evidences to prosecute the criminals of ISIS’s violence, with their experience all over the world, from Rwanda to Bosnia, from Argentina to Cambodia’s massacres. Only ISIS’s mass graves are 202, while the number of former regime’s ones is unknown. The team’s passionate, humble and huge effort is making the history of Iraq, they will have to work still for so many years, but their hope is only one: that the next mass grave will be the last one.
Alessio Mamo is a Sicilian photographer based in Catania, Italy and a regular contributor for The Guardian and L’Espresso. After completing a degree in chemistry, Mamo then graduated in photography from the European Institute of Design in Rome, Italy in 2007. In 2008, he began his career in photojournalism, focusing on contemporary social, political and economic issues. Mamo covers issues related to refugee displacement and migration starting in Sicily, and then extending to countries in the Middle East. His pictures have been published in major international magazines such as TIME, The Guardian, Newsweek, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Stern, National Geographic, Geo, Polka, AlJazeera, The New Yorker, Internazionale and L’Espresso. He is also a contributing photographer with Médecins Sans Frontières and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).