Massive crop fires have reached mass graves of Ezidi victims located in Shungal district west of Ninewa province on Tuesday.
The fires erupted in wheat and barley fields in the village of Kojo, where Islamic State militants committed atrocities against the Ezidi population after it swept into the area in August 2014.
The incident caused damage to farmers’ crops and forced many of its residents to evacuate.
The impact of the fires has sparked the concern of local residents as the village is the site of a number of mass graves containing the remains of hundreds of Ezidi victims slaughtered by IS fighters.
Kojo is also the home village of Ezidi human rights activist and Nobel Peace Award winner Nadia Murad, who was kidnapped and held captive by IS for three months during the group’s brutal attack on Kojo.
“We demand that the mass graves be exhumed as soon as possible. It has been five years since our relatives were mass slaughtered and buried in these mass graves,” said Idris Bashar, a relative of Ezidi victims.
Bashar is concerned that the crop fire could destroy evidence at the site of the mass graves, particularly as it reached several mass graves which have been prepared for exhumation.
“The exhumation process is moving slowly and will eventually consume more time. If the fire inflicts damage on the mass graves it will destroy the evidence needed to document the crimes committed against the Ezidi population”, he said.
The first mass grave in Kojo was unearthed on March 15, 2019 under the auspices of Iraq’s Mass Graves Directorate, and the process is underway.
Meanwhile, the remains of 138 Ezidi victims exhumed from ten mass graves in the village have been sent to the Baghdad-based Medico-Legal Directorate for forensic analysis.
Yasr Elyas, a journalist, told KirkuNow that “the fire reached the vicinity of the site of the mass graves and caused damage to residents’ properties.”
Only one fire engine was available at the village which made the task of controlling the fire more difficult.
According to statistics by the Directoate of Ezidi Affairs in the KRG’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, a total of 80 mass graves have been found in Shingal district in addition to dozens of individual graves of victims slaughtered by IS after they overran the area in August 2014.
The surge in crop fire incidents in Ninewa and Shingal district coincided with the beginning of the harvest season. In addition to damaging crops, the fires have led to fatalities.