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Out of cemetery space, Douma switches to multi-tiered mass graves

AMMAN: Overwhelmed by the number of victims of regime bombardment […]

AMMAN: Overwhelmed by the number of victims of regime bombardment and running out of burial space, the Local Council in the East Ghouta city of Douma is now using multi-tiered mass graves.

The mass graves, seen in pictures posted online by the Douma Local Council on Sunday, consist of six tiers cut vertically into the earth, each meant to hold a single body. It is a grim innovation born of the need to cope with “the large number of the dead and the lack of land for burial,” Akram Taamah, the director of the Douma Local Council told Syria Direct on Monday.

The six-tiered graves were adopted in the aftermath of regime airstrikes on a public market that killed more than 100 people and injured 300 this past August, an attack known as the “Great Douma Massacre,” as one of several measures that Douma residents have been forced to take in an attempt to bury and track mounting numbers of the dead.

 Earthen bricks are placed on top of corpses in Douma’s multi-tiered graves. Photo Courtesy of Douma Local Council.

“There are no longer enough white burial shrouds,” Abu Muhammad Marouf, a Douma-based human rights activist told Syria Direct on Monday. “We have started to use colored fabric. In the August massacre, we had to use plastic bags.” Islamic funeral rites require burial in an unadorned white cloth, or kafan.   

The densely populated, regime-blockaded Outer Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta have been subjected to heavy aerial and ground bombardment by regime forces since the beginning of the war.

Just this past Friday, 70 people were killed and 550 injured in a regime airstrike on a Douma public market followed by shelling, Médecins sans Frontières reported on Saturday.

The site chosen for the new graveyard, which was bought by the Local Council, lies far from the fighting fronts near Douma in order to avoid bombardment, Marouf said.

In the aftermath of the August air raids, residents reported that regime forces had bombarded the Martyrs’ Graveyard in Douma “in an organized fashion,” as residents attempted to bury their dead in mass graves. This “forced many people to delay burials,” Abu Anas, a member of the Douma Local Coordination Council, told Syria at the time.

Unlike the “Martyrs’ Graveyard” which was reserved for those who died in the course of the war, the multi-tiered graves will receive all of Douma’s dead, free of cost.

In part, the new graves are an attempt to impose order on the occasionally chaotic burial of airstrike victims. “The names of the martyrs are documented in a special register with the Civil Defense,” Marouf said, “including the name of each martyr, the number of the grave and the level on which they are buried.”


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