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In Syria, a Lack of Space to Bury the Dead

The body count from the Syrian conflict is so vast, there aren’t enough cemeteries to accommodate the deceased.
A man visits a cemetery in Douma, near Damascus.
A man visits a cemetery in Douma, near Damascus.Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

Earlier this year, the UN Special Envoy for Syria estimated that 400,000 people have died in the country’s conflict since it began in 2011. With the number of dead so vast, it has become an immense challenge to find space in which to bury them. And because the majority of the deceased practiced Islam, a religion whose funerary rites include burial rather than cremation, the need for enough ground in which to lay thousands upon thousands to rest is even more acute.

Syria’s residents have been forced to come up with makeshift solutions. In the opposition-held city of Douma, northeast of Damascus, for instance, locals buried people outside the city when the cemeteries filled. As the number of dead increased, they began to create tiered plots. One worker told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that he is helping to dig one with three layers, each able to hold a thousand graves.