The crisis in Iraq continues with reports that up to 500 Yazidi people have been killed by ISIS rebels around Sinjar after refusing to convert to Islam. More disturbingly, there is evidence to suggest that some of the dead were buried alive.
Such a story reaffirms the notion that ISIS has reached a new stage of barbarity rarely seen throughout the annals of history. Even during wartime, the practice of premature burial as a method of execution is extremely rare. Indeed, taking it from a pragmatic view, such an exercise is inherently troublesome. It is simpler to shoot a group of prisoners and then dispose of them rather than taking the effort to bury them alive, which entails the possibility of resistance. Such is the level of terror ISIS is trying to spread in pursuit of its warped political and religious goals.
Records show that premature burial has been historically used as a method of execution for criminals in several countries, particularly for those people charged with what were deemed the most heinous crimes of the time. This ranged from murder and rape to adultery and theft and was practiced during the existence of the Roman Empire, in Imperial Russia and in Germany amongst other states.
This brutal execution method was no doubt used as an ultimate deterrent to would-be-criminals and was far from common when more ‘convenient’ means of killing (such as hanging, beheading etc.) were available.
More recent examples of premature burial relate to wartime. The Japanese are accused of the practice in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (particularly during the Nanjing Massacre), German soldiers on the Eastern Front during WWII used the method against the Jews, the Khmer Rouge employed the practice during their drive for an ‘agrarian utopia’ and it is also reported to have occurred in Mao’s China.
The regimes listed as employing this execution method are all widely acknowledged as some of the most barbaric in history. That ISIS would mirror such ‘punishments’ – and remember we are not even dealing with criminals, soldiers or protesters here, merely innocent civilians practicing the ‘wrong’ religion – destroys any semblance of legitimacy that they may have possessed.
If the Islamic world is truly dedicated to the preservation and elevation of its religion then it should unite to overturn the ISIS momentum in Iraq and allow its leaders to be held accountable at The Hague in front of a war crimes tribunal.
Unfortunately we have seen precious little evidence in recent years that Islamic states can overcome their selfish intents to unite for the common cause. As long as this is the case, innocent people will continue to die in the most ghastly manner.