Monday, July 20, 2015

Iraq Authorities Continue To Underreport Casualties In War Against Islamic State

For quite some time the Iraqi government has been reluctant to report full casualties. This started with Nouri al-Maliki who tried to promote himself as the law and order prime minister. The government would routinely under report those that fell in bombings and kept down the monthly death totals far below other agencies to make it look like security was improving under the premier. When the war broke out with the Islamic State both Baghdad and Irbil went into propaganda mode. That meant they kept up the practice of under reporting bombings, but also would rarely report losses amongst the security forces. The result is that thousands have been killed and wounded over the last year with no public record. That was shown by two recent government reports that continued to underreport the number of losses.

First, on July 2, 2015 the Human Rights Ministry released some casualty data. It said that 4,772 people had been killed and 28,575 had been wounded in the country since June 2014. These figures did not include Ninewa, Salahaddin, Anbar or the KRG. Those were three of the four most violent provinces in Iraq, and where the Islamic State had seized territory. The press report didn’t say whether this was just civilian casualties or included members of the security forces.

That same day the Peshmerga Ministry announced how many of its members had been lost in the war. It stated that 1,212 peshmerga had died and around 7,000 had been injured. Those were roughly the same figures that a Kurdish parliamentarian told the press at the end of May, which were 1,205 dead and 6,595 wounded.

The problem with these figures was that they were lower than what was reported in the press, which in turn were below the real number of casualties. For example, the media reported 10,508 people killed from June 2014 to June 2015 in just Babil, Baghdad, Diyala, and Kirkuk. That didn’t include victims of Islamic State bombings in the south. Even if only civilians were included and not members of the security forces there were still 8,339 deaths during that period, almost double the 4,772 in the Human Rights Ministry report. Likewise, there have been 2,657 peshmerga deaths in the newspapers, more than double the amount the Peshmerga Ministry mentioned. The true numbers are probably even much higher. As a recent Al Mada article speculated there might have been up to 50,000 casualties from June 2014 to June 2015. The government however has been scared to report the real figures fearing that it would undermine morale.

What the two ministries did admit to was far more wounded then had been acknowledged before. The Human Rights and Peshmerga Ministries’ statistics minus what Musings On Iraq counted revealed 2,350 wounded outside of Ninewa, Salahaddin, Anbar and the KRG, and 1,674 peshmerga injured that had not been mentioned earlier. That was over 4,000 victims of the war that the government and press never acknowledged until now. That raises the question of how many more people have fallen to the conflict that the authorities have not admitted to.

In all wars government’s revert to propaganda to maintain the public’s support and portray an air of victory. Baghdad and Irbil are no different. Their announcements are always filled with reports of hundreds of Islamic State fighters being killed and captured, one strategic town after another being taken all creating a relentless story of success. What is lost in that narrative is the costs of the war. The Human Rights and Peshmerga Ministry revealed almost 7,000 people killed and wounded that were either not admitted to until now or still not officially reported. The real figures may never be made public. That means how many Iraqis have been lost in the war may never be known.


Bas News, “Human Rights Ministry: Almost 5,000 Iraqis Killed Since Fall of Mosul,” 7/2/15

Al Mada, “Iraq does not have official figures of its losses after a year of war on Daash,” 6/12/15

Millet, “Peshmerg Minister Reveals Latest Casualty Figures,” 7/2/15

New Sabah, “3 thousand Peshmerga killed in war against terrorism,” 5/27/15

Sadiq, Hoshmand, “More Than 1,200 Peshmerga Killed Since IS War Began,” Bas News, 5/31/15

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