Today is the third anniversary of the mass murder of as many as 1,700 Iraqi military cadets at Camp Speicher near Tikrit, north of the capital Baghdad. The Islamic State terrorist group – which Iraqis refer to as Daesh – claimed responsibility for the atrocity and published videos and photos of the crime online. The Iraqi government believes that former members of the Ba’ath Party, which ruled Iraq from 1968 to 2003, were also involved.
As in so many of the violent crimes carried out by Daesh, the killers at Camp Speicher targeted Shi’a Muslims and members of minority faiths such as Christians. The killing was planned, organised, and filmed for propaganda purposes. In addition to being an act of terrorism intended to create tension between faith communities, the Camp Speicher killings were a war crime committed as part of a wider campaign of genocide.
The Camp Speicher massacre took place as the IS group was rapidly expanding the Iraqi territory under its control and just weeks before its headline-grabbing declaration of a caliphate. Since 2014, Tikrit has been liberated from IS rule, mass graves have been exhumed, some perpetrators have been arrested, and some have been tried and executed. Yet many Iraqis, particularly the families of victims, believe that the government must do more to bring those responsible for the atrocity to justice. The site of the killings has become a memorial.
As they have done on numerous occasions during the past three years, Iraqis will take part in demonstrations this Wednesday in Baghdad and other cities. The demonstrations will “honour of the martyrs of the Speicher massacre” and express concerns that the investigation into the atrocity has stalled and justice continues to be denied to the families of victims. I expect some will also express anger at former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who some Iraqis believe should be investigated over his role in the event.