Iraq/Iran: handover of remains brings hope to families of the missing

05-05-2011 Feature

On 4 April 2011, at the Shalamjah border crossing near Basra that separates Iraq from Iran, representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights handed over to their Iranian counterparts the remains of 17 Iranian soldiers killed during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Thousands of soldiers went missing on both sides during those eight years of intense battle.

Under the auspices of the ICRC, representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights officially handed over the remains of the deceased soldiers to the Search and Recovery Committee of the Iranian Armed Forces. This handover brought to 307 the number of people whose remains have been repatriated since 2008 on both sides of the border.
The remains of the 17 soldiers were exhumed in the Abu Al-Khaseeb area, some 10 km south-east of Basra and 14 km from the Iranian-Iraqi border.'' We hope that this will pave the way for the recovery of more human remains still unaccounted for," said Rania Machlab, the ICRC Protection Coordinator in Iran.
At a high-level meeting held in Tehran in early 2011 under the auspices of the ICRC, representatives of Iran and Iraq committed themselves to reinforce joint search and recovery activities for people who went missing in connection with the 1980-1988 war. "This handover re-affirms the commitment of the parties to provide answers to the families of those still unaccounted for," explained Dika Dulic, the ICRC delegate in charge of the missing file in Iraq.
"The suffering of the families of tens of thousands of missing is unbearable," said Rania Machlab, who was present during the repatriation. On the other side of the border, women and soldiers marked the return of 17 of their loved ones with prayers and religious chants.

Representatives of the Iraqi and Iranian authorities signed a handover certificate. The human remains are currently undergoing an identification process prior to being returned to their families. In its role as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC supports the concerned authorities in their efforts to clarify the fate of the missing.



The coffins are prepared for the ceremony
© ICRC / M.C. Feghali / iq-e-00977-3


Iranian soldiers pay tribute to their 17 fellow soldiers who died in combat.
© ICRC / M.C. Feghali / iq-e-00978-1


Iranian soldiers prepare to carry the coffins over to the Iranian side of the border
© ICRC / M.C.Feghali / iq-e-00979-2