By Kamal al-Ayash, Fallujah
Locals in Fallujah prefer the Islamic State group’s deceased fighters not rest in peace.
The central Iraqi city of Fallujah is not actually very large and during recent months, when the extremist group known as the Islamic State was in charge of the city, there were only three graveyards within the extremists’ boundaries. One was Farouq cemetery, another was the Muadidi graveyard to the north of the central city and the third was the well-known Martyrs’ Cemetery of Fallujah.
As a result of fighting in and around Fallujah while the extremist IS group was based there, hundreds were killed, both fighters and civilians. One of the rewards that the IS group granted its fallen soldiers was a burial inside one of the official, sanctified cemeteries.
However, since the IS group was pushed out of the area, locals have been taking this favour back. They have been exhuming the IS corpses buried between their own deceased relatives.
Much of this was done with official permission, says Jamal al-Jumaili, head of the Fallujah police. “Official permission was given for the exhumed corpses to be relocated to other areas,” he explained.
It is easy to tell which graves hold the IS fighters. The names on the plaques bear the fighter’s nickname, rather than his real name. So there are monikers such as Abu Musab al-Muhajir, or Abu Khatab al-Yemen and Abu Al-Walid al-Hollandi, amongst others. The last two names indicate that the fighters buried here came from Yemen and the Netherlands. The extremists also added symbols that indicated how the person was killed and these are etched in blue on a concrete slab.
When the IS group took control of Fallujah, they expanded the Martyrs’ Cemetery by removing a fence that separated it from a nearby school. New graves were then dug in the school grounds,
One local man in his 60s, who wished to be known only as Abu Ali, didn’t leave Fallujah and because he lives near the cemetery, he often witnessed IS burials.
“The group took the process of burying its own fighters very seriously,” he told Al Menasa. “We weren’t allowed to do anything and we were not even allowed to approach while the person was being buried. Other IS fighters would carry out the burial and would engrave the symbols and nobody could even tell who exactly is in the grave,” he recalls.
It is quite possible that if one thoroughly explored the western and southern sides of the cemetery, one would find symbols that indicate the final resting places of some of the leaders of the extremist group, he suggests.
“This is one way of cutting out the root of so many bitter memories,” Fallujah resident Sayed Abbas told Al Menasa – he believes that the presence of the dead IS members is an affront to others in Fallujah. “This graveyard cannot hold these people in its soil, these people who caused so much destruction in this city. This is a step in the right direction for those who refused to live under IS’ rule.”