In Bashika, Mosul, hundreds of men beat and stoned a 17 year old woman named Du’a Khalil Aswad to death, in a gruesome example of collective ‘honour killing’. The woman, a member of the Yezidi religion which is practised by Kurds in Northern Iraq, ran away from her family to join an Arab Muslim man with whom she had fallen in love and had been meeting secretly, but he rejected her. Damned under the ‘honour’ code, for running away, for choosing outside her own community and for being ultimately rejected, Du’a had nowhere to go.
She stayed with a local Yezidi tribal leader for five days until she was convinced to return to her village on the understanding that she had been ‘forgiven.’ She was abducted and brutally murdered in front of hundreds of men by her relatives — who stripped her body, beat and kicked her, and killed her by crushing her body with rocks and concrete blocks. These brutal and inhuman acts were filmed by the participants on their mobile phones and many of them have been circulating on the internet and from phone to phone. They show the participation of the police in this disgusting communal murder and the murderous excitement of the crowd as the girl’s uncle, brother and cousin commit the grisly murder.
Islamist groups active in the area have sought to capitalise on this crime and are urging revenge attacks upon all Yezidis, claiming that she had converted to Islam and characterising the murder as a ‘martyrdom’ rather than an ‘honour’ killing. Women in the Middle East face patriarchal oppression and violence whether they are Muslim, Druze, Yezidi or Christian. ‘Honour’ killings are common amongst Kurds (the UN has recorded 40 honour killings in Kurdistan in 3 months in 2007) and public murders like this have been noted before: for example in the case of Semse Allak in the Kurdish region of Turkey. Islamists throughout Iraq seek to exploit the racial and religious divisions in the country; one mosque has declared a ‘fatwa’ against the Yezidi and 23 have been murdered. For this reason, prompt action to locate the relatives of the young woman and the police who failed to act is essential to restore peace and allow the Yezidi community to feel safe again.
Mirza Dinnayi, co-ordinator of the German-based Yezidi Democratic Community was devastated by this crime. “All Yezidi associations and leaders have clearly condemned this barbaric act,” he said. Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi authorities to investigate whether law enforcement officials were present but failed to intervene to prevent Du’a Khalil Aswad’s death by stoning, and to take urgent, concrete measures, including through legislative reforms, to protect those at risk of becoming victims of so-called “honour crimes.” Today in Arbil there was a huge demonstration against this murder and ‘honour’ killings in Kurdistan in general.