The fate of tens of thousands of people who disappeared in connection with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War has still not been determined, preventing their families from closing a painful chapter in their lives, still waiting to find out what happened to their loved ones.
The effects of war are often devastating destructions, deaths and sufferings. Its consequences are usually felt for decades on after the fighting has subsided. The Iraq-Iran war cost the lives of tens of thousands of persons including many young men and left other tens of thousands missing with no information about their fates.
Those who were killed during the war are commemorated and remembered, the families are able to mourn their death, grieve and begin to rebuild their lives without that person. On the other hand, the families of those who have gone missing and whose fate remains unknown continue to suffer far after the war has ended, unable to grieve or mourn. The disappearance of a loved one creates sustained anxiety. It can also lead to resentment and feelings of injustice and prevent the family members from moving on and rebuilding their lives. The immeasurable suffering of those who cannot grieve has made it the moral duty of every state and the ICRC to do its utmost to clarify the fate of all those still missing.
The ICRC worldwide works on the wide range of the spectrum from preventing disappearances to coping with the consequence and reality of missing persons.
In Iran, the ICRC seeks to alleviate some of the suffering of these families by supporting efforts to recover the human remains so they can be returned to their countries and their families. Also, the ICRC has been involved in the war since its onset, visiting camps on both sides where prisoners of war were held to monitor their conditions of detention as well as help them restore and maintain family links via Red Cross Messages.
Since the end of the war, the ICRC has played the role of facilitator of the mechanism established between the Iraqi and Iranian government to help uncover the fate of those who have gone missing during the war.
The ICRC chairs regular meetings between the two parties to encourage talks and support the remarkable work carried out by the two countries to recover the bodies of those who died, in order to bring them home, so their families can finally have some solace. These meetings address technical issues relating to excavations and logistics and seeks agreements on ways forward to carry on the work and continue advancing.
The ICRC also offers technical expertise and advice in areas relating to identification and use of DNA identification methods. In addition, the ICRC provides occasional material support in the form of equipment to be used in the field to excavate and facilitate the work carried out by the teams in the field.
Finally, the handovers of the human remains are carried out under ICRC auspices at various border areas between Iran and Iraq.