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Fate of Thousands Disappeared by ISIS Unknown: Syrian Network

The fate of the more than 8,000 forcibly disappeared individuals by ISIS remains unknown, a report by the SNHR claims, according to Zaman al-Wasl.
Fate of Thousands Disappeared by ISIS Unknown: Syrian Network
Fate of Thousands Disappeared by ISIS Unknown: Syrian Network

The Islamic State (ISIS) has killed 5,043 individuals, including 32 due to torture, since the radical group’s establishment, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said Thursday, noting that despite the passage of almost two years since the defeat of ISIS, the fate of 8,684 forcibly disappeared by the organization remains unknown.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, Director of SNHR, says: “There was a glimmer of hope among the families of persons forcibly disappeared by ISIS that after the defeat of the organization, the fate of their loved ones would be revealed. However, more than two years since the organization lost its last strongholds, their fate remains unknown. Frustration, mixed with intense anger, prevails among the families, and the more time passes, the more complex and difficult the task of revealing the fate of the disappeared becomes.”

From April 2013 until January 2022, the report documents the deaths of at least 5,043 individuals, including 958 children and 587 women (adult female), at the hands of ISIS or as a consequence of its actions. As the chart provided in the report shows, this death toll was distributed as follows: 4,428, including 910 children and 539 women were killed through unlawful combat attacks; 32, including one child and 14 women, were killed due to torture and neglect of health care; and 536, including 31 children and 24 women, were killed by execution following summary and arbitrary trial proceedings. The report also documents the deaths of 47 individuals, including 16 children and 10 women, who died due to a lack of food and medicine as a result of the siege imposed by ISIS on their areas.


Data analysis shows that 2017 was the worst year in terms of the death toll from extrajudicial killings, followed by 2016, 2015, then 2018. Meanwhile, another chart in the report shows the distribution of the death toll of extrajudicial killings at the hands of ISIS according to the Syrian provinces from which the victims originated, the highest death toll from extrajudicial killings was seen in Deir-ez-Zour governorate, which accounted for 30.43% of the total, followed by Aleppo, Raqqa, then Homs.

As the report reveals, at least 8,684 of the individuals forcibly disappeared by ISIS since the announcement of its establishment in early April 2013 are still documented as forcibly disappeared as of January 2022, including 319 children and 255 women. According to the cumulative linear graph of this record, 2016 was the worst, followed by 2017, 2015, then 2018.

The report also provides a chart of the record of detainees/forcibly disappeared persons held by ISIS according to the Syrian governorates from which the victims originated, which shows that the  Deir-ez-Zour governorate is ahead of all others, accounting for 18.63 %, followed by Aleppo, then Raqqa. The report also provides a chart of the record of detainees/forcibly disappeared persons held by ISIS according to the location of the detention/ kidnapping incident, which shows that Raqqa is ahead of all other provinces, followed by Deir-ez-Zour, Aleppo, then Homs.

As the report further reveals, ISIS carried out at least five chemical weapon attacks, all in Aleppo. These attacks injured 132 individuals.

Read Also: UNICEF Visits ISIS Children in Syria Hassakeh Prison

The report notes that ISIS’ enforced disappearances have remained an unresolved issue for years and that what distinguishes this issue is that these individuals’ fate has not been revealed, despite all the former ISIS detention centers being liberated and no longer under the control of ISIS.

ISIS has practiced enforced disappearance on a widespread basis against all groups in society and in every area it controlled or was present in, using this as a weapon of terror and intimidation and as a strategy to deter and crush its opponents, including activists, dignitaries, and influential figures, as well as during its attacks on areas outside its control.

ISIS also specifically targeted foreigners with the aim of obtaining huge sums of money in ransoms, as well as journalists, aid workers, media activists, humanitarian organizations’ personnel, members of ethnic and religious minorities, and individuals accused of violating the extremist doctrines and edicts imposed by the group, whether religious or otherwise. Those forcibly disappeared also included fighters from groups opposing ISIS.

In a related context, the report provides a map of the most prominent detention centers used by ISIS, and confirms that these detention centers were empty when ISIS withdrew from each of the areas as it evacuated prisoners from its detention centers upon withdrawing. Accordingly, the report stresses the importance of seriously investigating the issue of the individuals still missing and forcibly disappeared by ISIS.

As the report further reveals, those detained and forcibly disappeared by ISIS were subjected to extremely cruel torture methods, similar to those practiced by the Syrian regime. The report provides details of the 17 most prominent methods of torture characteristically used by ISIS, meaning those methods which its members practiced repeatedly and extensively; these number 15 physical methods and 2 psychological methods.

The report documents the deaths of dozens of detainees at ISIS’ hands and provides details on five of the main types of killings carried out by the group against detainees, namely the killing of detainees before reaching detention centers, killing detainees before withdrawing from areas under ISIS control, killing detainees by assigning them dangerous jobs that could lead to their death, killing detainees through very summary procedures, and killing detainees in ostentatious ways which confirm ISIS’ indifference to their victims’ lives.

The report notes that the U.S.-led Coalition forces played an essential role in eliminating ISIS, with the SDF taking control of the territories that had been under ISIS control.

The report stresses that as a party to the internal armed conflict, ISIS is legally compelled to abide by international humanitarian law. ISIS also took control of large areas of land, and, therefore, as a dominant force, it is compelled to respect international human rights law.

The report adds that ISIS has clearly violated the principles of distinction and proportionality in many bombardment incidents, with some attacks causing material and human losses. Such indiscriminate attacks on populated areas constitute a terrible violation of international humanitarian law.

ISIS has violated international humanitarian law by using an internationally prohibited weapon, and thus has committed a war crime, as well as violated the Security Council resolutions in this regard.


This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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