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Manipulated or Reinterpreted Memories of Violence Complicate Peace Processes

On 1 June 2017, 85 women and children were killed by ISIL sniper fire as they tried to escape the conflict. The bodies lay in a heap, dead or dying as ISIL pinned them down by firing from the top floor or roof of the local hospital building.

The impact of this factory wall is far reaching. All community members interviewed in Mosul, Telafar, Erbil and in two IDP camps (Hasan Sham and Hajj Ali) have heard of this place and the atrocity that took place there. An important aspect of this site and the memories it evokes is that most people who referred to the atrocity highlighted the event’s immorality, in that those murdered were exclusively women and children.

After some investigation and the translation of the memorial painted on the wall where the victims were shot, it became apparent that there were 84 victims, mainly male (63 men and 21 women). This, of course does not diminish the trauma of the atrocity. It does, however, suggest that the memory and meaning of this horrific event has been manipulated or reinterpreted to amplify the immorality of ISIL and those affiliated to the group. Despite the wider social political implications, this narrative may be used as a method to amplify feelings of revenge, fear, hate and division. That said, on the local level the atrocity has stimulated a response from the neighbourhood. The community has acknowledged this atrocity by painting the wall at the location where the victims lay. They have written the names of each victim under the heading “Names of the Martyrs of the Massacre of the Pepsi Factory.” The local community has also created a football club on the barren land adjacent to the site, in honour of the victims. The ground is called “The Martyrs of Al Zinjily? Stadium”. This could be a significant gesture of social integration in recognition of the suffering their community has suffered. Further investigation would be required to ascertain the underlying reasons and effects of this neighbourhood initiative.

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