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05/05/2020 Syria (International Christian Concern) – Human Rights Watch has launched a call for an investigation into a mass grave located in Syria’s al-Hota gorge, a deep natural pit located about 85 kilometers north of Raqqa city. The gorge, once a popular picnic destination, became a location used by ISIS to dispose bodies during their brutal occupation and genocide. Because of the ongoing Syrian conflict, a thorough investigation into this mass grave has been unable to proceed.

The number of bodies in the gorge are unknown, but according to overwhelming local reports and given its close proximity to Raqqa, it is known to have been a common dumping ground for people disappeared by ISIS. The gorge is currently controlled by the Turkish backed Syrian National Army. Turkey has often been accused of facilitating ISIS activities and supporting ex-ISIS militants when they join other paramilitary groups.

ISIS murdered anyone who presented a way of life or ideology different from the extremist one which they sought to impose across the Levant. They had a special hatred towards religious minorities, especially Yazidis and Christians, whom they committed genocide against. Many were killed or disappeared, their fate remains unknown, although in the case of the Yazidis it is not uncommon to hear stories of enslaved women spending some time in Raqqa. While it is unknown whether any religious minority is buried in al-Hota, investigating all mass graves are an important piece of transitional justice, as it can give much needed closure to the victims’ families.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org.