Sarah’s Journey in Rebuilding Hope and Justice with UNITAD's E-Discovery Review Team

“I thought it is the end of Christianity in Iraq”, said Sarah on how it was like during ISIL’s rise in Iraq.

Originally from Mosul, Sarah grew up in Baghdad. She has always been passionate about serving her community. Her desire for raising the voice of the Christian community in Iraq led her to excel in her studies. Once she completed her B.A., she worked as deputy principle for a local school, but she always felt there is more to her ambitions.

Her life and the life of her family took a major turn in 2014, when ISIL started systematically targeting the Christian community in Mosul and surrounding areas. “It was a very targeted campaign to empty Iraq of its Christians,” she said, adding “Overnight, my relatives were threatened to either leave or be killed. So, they left without taking anything with them, they lost everything. They went to areas like Erbil, Dohuk, Baghdad. Even we, those who were in the heart of Baghdad, were scared. What if we were next?”

The times were bleak for Sarah, her family, and all Christians in Iraq. “It is a state of indefinite fear of what will happen. Can I leave my husband and children and just go to work? Do I take a chance by sending my children to school? Will my husband come home tonight? We were faced by all these scary questions -and even worse- every day.”

For Sarah and members of the Christian community, the trauma haunts their lives, even after the liberation. “We are still in shock and disbelief as to how all of this could happen to us, in a blink of an eye. But we firmly believe in rebuilding our community, in justice and healing.” She explains.

In the years following the defeat of ISIL, Sarah had learned about UNITAD and its work with all Iraqi communities impacted by ISIL atrocities. “It seemed that this is the place that would allow me to support my community, and make their voices heard; a place that also empowers Iraqi specialists in a range of unique specializations and up to bar with international standards.” Sarah then joined UNITAD as a member of its E-Discovery Review team.

The E-Discovery Team enables national experts with advanced technical skills through the use of modern technology for evidence searches and preservation. The Team currently consists of 80% women from a range of communities impacted by ISIL crimes.

Since joining the E-Discovery Team, Sarah, along with her colleagues have undergone intensive trainings including on the fundamentals of electronic discovery, focusing on machine-learning aided review, search, and quality control checks. This enables the team to conduct high quality analysis and checks on the sheer amount of evidence to help investigators construct impeccable analysis and cases.

Describing the project, Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD Christian Ritscher indicated that: “The E-Discovery Review Team is a part of UNITAD’s larger approach to enhance national capacities in investigations and evidence management. It plays, also, a pivotal role in improving the efficiency of investigations and adherence to international standards necessary for admissibility of evidence in competent courts, all important to the pursuit of accountability for ISIL international crimes committed in Iraq.”

“At the start of my work, I thought this would be a very difficult job. But, through the specialized trainings, and the incredible spirit of cooperation among our teammates, I have come to gain more and more skills and felt better equipped to overcome the challenges in this field of work,” said Sarah. “At my team in UNITAD, I found a work environment that supports diversity and empowers the voice of minorities, which makes me thrive.”


The truth about what happened during ISIL’s rein of terror is very grim. “It is what I experienced and what my family survived. And it is daunting at times. Nonetheless, even at the toughest moments, I remember how brave the survivors have been, rebuilding their lives from scratch, and fighting for justice. I remember my own children and the next generations that deserve to live in peace and security. I think of the future I must help shape for them, in their country amongst their people. And this is where I get my strength to continue. I think that this is my role. To be at a place where we uncover evidence and help shape the truth.”

The E-Discovery Team has provided unique chances for national experts, like Sarah, to grow professionally. “Although our educational backgrounds are different, UNITAD’s experts successfully tailored the trainings to maximize learning opportunities for all of us. We learned how to use the skills we are gaining in support of crucial investigations. This opens doors for me and other women to be able to serve at UNITAD, and, in other entities in the future, with the set of skills we have developed, and continue to grow. I think it has been very promising for my future career path. Also, I hope that with more knowledge and experience, I will be able to train other specialists and help grow our national capacities in different entities.”

Serving her community in Iraq, and acting as a role model for her daughter, Sarah has always followed her passion and ambition against all odds. “Taking ownership, as a woman, over my own career in a high-tech analytical domain, which has previously been male dominated, is a great step for me, and this project, with our contribution to the investigations into ISIL heinous crimes can be a great leap forward towards accountability. I consider this just the beginning,” concluded Sarah.