Relatives Look for Answers

Today a lady came to the exhumation because she wanted to give us antemortem information. I spoke to her in English, and a person from the War Crimes Investigation Commission translated to Somali. I started telling her, "I’m a forensic anthropologist, and I am working trying to recover the bodies buried in this place." Then I asked her if she wanted to see the grave to know exactly how we were working; we walked together into the grave. She stood and looked, stared at the grave. I asked her if she wanted to pray, and suddenly she started to cry. I felt so bad. We don’t speak the same language, but I could feel the same pain. This work has these moments. You think you’re accustomed to it, but it’s not true. And it is in that moment when your work becomes personal, because now our challenge is to make our best effort to try to identify somebody and give them back to their beloved relatives. My mind has not stopped thinking about that woman, about her pain. She doesn’t know how her relative was dressed that day (November 17th, 1984); she was at the hospital giving birth. Someone told her that he was detained with many others and taken away to Badkha (meaning the execution place) and buried there. That day 41 people were murdered. She was looking for her husband.

Franco Mora

Forensic Archeologist – Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team