Did ISIS really kill 1,700 prisoners in Iraq?

The World
How It Works
June 16 2014 12:34 PM

Just How Bad Are the Atrocities Being Committed in Iraq Right Now?

1485391_62090ac671058e0e9be5b56e5b8362a9c920a9df_crop_20_14_43
A photo released by ISIS purportedly showing the moments before the execution of captured Iraqi soldiers.

An image originally released on the jihadist website Welayat.

ISIS, the extremist rebel group that continues to gain more territory in Iraq, released photos over the weekend thatappear to show the mass execution of captured Iraqi troops, and has boasted of killing as many as 1,700 soldiers in the captured city of Tikrit. The photos show men in plain clothes being led into a ditch and executed. "They're walking to death by their foot," read the caption on one.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

This would be the worst single mass atrocity committed in the region in recent years, including the 2013 chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces that nearly prompted an international intervention in Syria.

Advertisement

The Iraqi military says the photos are authentic and that mass executions have taken place. Not everyone is quite so sure about the specifics. The BBC points out that ISIS typically releases videos of its operations, rather than still images, which are more difficult to verify. A Human Rights Watch researcher who examined the photos told the New York Times, “I am not convinced they are authentic.”

The numbers and particular images aside, the reports of atrocities against both captured troops and civilians by ISIS are pretty widespread at this point. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said her office has received reports that militants “rounded up and killed Iraqi soldiers as well as 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul” as well as numerous of incidents of summary executions in cities captured by the group. Massacres by the groups are reportedly still taking place on the Syrian side of the border as well.

The U.S. is currently mulling airstrikes against ISIS as well as considering perhaps unprecedented cooperation with Iran, but in the meantime, it’s clear that the situation on the ground in areas captured by rebels is becoming extremely grim.

It’s also possible that foreign governments are avoiding playing up the reports of ISIS atrocities in order to avoid retaliatory violence against Sunni civilians by the Iraqi military or Shiite militias. ISIS is clearly the primary perpetrator of atrocities at the moment, but the human rights record of Maliki’s forces isn’t exactly spotless.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word "Chicken" or the Word "Egg"?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.