A Decade of Grief: Families of Victims of Speicher Massacre Demand Justice and Memorialization

A mother's worst nightmare: Nidhal from Baghdad has been grieving the loss of her son, Hussein, for over ten years. Photo: ©IOM 2024/Rafal Abdulateef

BAGHDAD, June 12 – “Every time I hear a knock on the door, I expect to see him returned to us,” shares 61-year-old Nidhal, mother of 22-year-old Hussein, a newly recruited cadet of the Iraqi Army, killed at the Martyr Majid Air Base or Speicher Camp in Tikrit, Iraq, a decade ago today.

Nidhal and countless families continue to grieve the loss of nearly 2,000 unarmed cadets, mostly young men in their twenties, who were captured and brutally executed by Daesh on the morning of June 12, 2014. Known as the Speicher Camp Massacre, it is the deadliest act of terrorism in the country, executing approximately 1,700 predominantly Shia cadets in a single day, with many more missing and unaccounted for.  

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq has been working with the families of the victims of the massacre, alongside the Iraqi victims Organization in Speicher 1700 (Speicher 1700) to demand justice and access to compensation and benefits, in additional to memorialization efforts to honor and immortalize the memory of an estimated 2,018 victims.

“The invasion and brutal occupation of Daesh has left unimaginable trauma in the lives of many Iraqis,” shares Giorgi Gigauri, Chief of Mission for IOM Iraq. “With support from our partners at the German Federal Foreign Office, we will continue to support the community in their demands for transitional justice, compensation and memorialization efforts so that they can take steps towards healing and recovery”.

“Remembrance culture plays a crucial role in the way Germany deals with history,” shares Dr. Maximilian Rasch, the Charge d’ Affairs of the Embassy of Germany in Baghdad. “Dramatic incidents, such as the Speicher camp massacre, traumatize the whole society. Just like an individual suffering from trauma, it is important for every country to heal its traumas, and the remembrance and advocacy efforts around the Speicher camp massacre are pivotal for the healing of Iraq”.

A forthcoming report on the findings of consultation sessions with family members of victims of the massacre in Baghdad, Babylon and Basra, found that majority of the participants were not aware of the legal frameworks relevant to the rights and privileges specific to the massacre, ultimately limiting their access to reparations and other support services.

Additionally, many affected families experience profound grief and sorrow, especially in the case of missing persons and those unable to identify the remains of their loved ones to give them a dignified burial, as many mass graves are yet to be exhumed. Consultations with the families found that while most families have access to some form of compensation – despite lengthy bureaucratic procedures – the primary demand remains memorialization efforts and the guarantee of non-repetition.

“The massacre at Speicher must be officially declared as a genocide,” asserts Abd Mohamed, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Speicher 1700. “We need the creation of a memorial site and a symbolic cemetery for the victims, where people can mourn their loss. This is necessary to prevent such crimes in the future”.  Speicher 1700 is a community-led organization founded in 2016 with the primary objective of documenting the events of the massacre and advocating for transitional justice for the victims and rights for their families.

Hussein, who was an only child to his parents, would have been 32 this year. “He used to buy sweets for the children in the neighborhood and wanted us to buy a house, instead of renting,” continues Nidhal.

“I wished to see him married, to see his children playing in front of me”. Instead, today, Nidhal and her family will make the painful annual trip to the former Presidential Palace in Tikrit, the site of the massacre, to honor the life and untimely death of Hussein and his classmates.



IOM’s work with Speicher 1700 and the families of the victims of the massacre, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), aims to consolidate the needs of the community and present recommendations to the Government of Iraq to support transitional justice in the form of reparation benefits, memorialization efforts, the search for missing persons and the return of exhumed remains to families for proper burials.


About IOM Iraq: With staff and major offices in Baghdad, Erbil, Basra and Mosul, IOM Iraq works in cooperation with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, civil society organizations and international partners to provide support across the country’s 18 governorates, operating a multi-sectoral response covering camp management and camp coordination, shelter and infrastructure rehabilitation, health care, mental health and psychosocial support services, livelihood assistance, protection, support for national migration policy development and more.


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