An estimated one thousand relatives of Iraqi soldiers that have gone missing since surrendering to the Islamic State terrorist group in June stormed the Iraqi Parliament on Tuesday, demanding legislators act to retrieve their family members.
According to Agence France-Presse, the family members entered the parliament and staged a sit-in in the main legislative chamber. Some attacked individual members of parliament, while others smashed chairs in the legislative cafeteria. The chaos shut down a meeting of legislators scheduled to discuss the issue of the missing Iraqi soldiers; instead, Parliament Speaker Salim al-Juburi met with representatives of the large group of family members to discuss their concerns in his home while the parliament building remained unsuitable for formal business.
The Kurdish news outlet Rudaw quotes Iraqi MP Salim Shushkayi as estimating the crowd to be “more than 1,000” and complained that they “refuse[d] to listen to anyone.” Most of the protesters surrounded the gates of parliament; Rudaw reports that fifteen family members were eventually allowed to meet with MPs.
The Iraqi Parliament is scheduled to hold an emergency session on Wednesday to discuss the fate of the estimated 1,700 soldiers. Reports surfaced in late June that Iraqi soldiers captured during the fall of Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam Hussein, were executed en masse by the jihadist group. Estimates range from the hundreds to up to 1,700 Shi’ite Iraqi soldiers killed during the one massacre in Tikrit, using both satellite footage and images distributed by Islamic State jihadists themselves. An additional unknown number of soldiers were captured in the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State, the second largest city in Iraq.
The Iraqi government’s official designation of many of these soldiers as “missing,” rather than killed in action, has largely prompted the backlash from aggrieved family members who believe Baghdad is not doing enough to save their relatives, or at least give families proper closure.
While unconfirmed reports of the massacre have been circulating for months, this week, the NGO Human Rights Watch accused the Islamic State of carrying out the massacre of up to 770 Iraqi soldiers during the capture of Camp Speicher, a military base north of Baghdad. The updated numbers, the NGO explains, are the product of months researching satellite data on the area during the June attack. “The barbarity of the Islamic State violates the law and grossly offends the conscience,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, of the massacre.