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'Finding names of dead increasingly difficult': TBIJ and Iraq Body Count 

First published 24th Oct 2014

Since the rise of ISIS, there has been a “significant increase” in violent deaths across Iraq, IBC’s Lily Hamourtziadou told Owen Bennet-Jones in a recent podcast on casualty recording with TBIJ’s Jack Serle. A senior researcher with the London-based Iraq Body Count, Hamourtziadou has spent the last eight years systematically recording the details of violent deaths in Iraq, including those caused by US-led coalition forces and the Iraqi government. 

Listen to the podcast here. 

While ISIS has contributed to the significant rise in deaths over the past six months, notes Hamourtziadou, there has also been an increase in violent deaths at the hands of the Iraqi state, which “has consistently killed Iraqi civilians every day since December”.  While people killed by ISIS are often executed publicly, those killed by the Iraqi army are “almost exclusively killed through airstrikes”. 

Hamourtziadou, who sometimes reviews over 200 media reports a day to collect information on casualties, notes that over the past year – due to an increase in violent engagement from ISIS, the Iraq government and now the United States – recording has become more difficult.  Many deaths, she says, are simply going unreported. 

Jack Serle, who heads The Bureau for Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ campaign – which seeks to identify victims of drone strikes in Pakistan - has noticed a similar trend. Finding out the identity of victims has become “increasingly difficult” over the course of the last year, Serle told Bennett-Jones. This is despite there being a decrease in drone strikes, allowing more time to be spent researching each victim. 

Of the 704 victims the ‘Naming the Dead’ project has identified, only 100 new names have been added since 2013. “There aren’t that many names”, notes Serle, “there are just over 700, and that's out of a minimum of a little under 2500 people killed over the last 10 years.” 

Determining the names of women killed in strikes has proved particularly difficult; “it sort of appears that no-one knows their names,” says Serle, “even amongst the local community…these people will remain anonymous casualties from here on after”. 

Iraq Body Count and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism are both members of Every Casualty's Casualty Recorders Network. For more information about their work and the work of other civil society recorders around the world click here.

Listen to the podcast here

For more information on Iraq Body Count see their website.