In 2007, a 17-year-old Kurdish Yazidi girl named Du’a Khalil Aswad was killed when she was stoned to death by her community for committing a crime from the heart. She had fallen in love with a Muslim boy. A mob of angry men beat and stoned her to death in northern Iraq. This mob included not only neighbors of the girl, but also members of her own family.
This love relationship was something that was not approved of by her community, and the killing is known as an ‘honor’ killing. However, the news of the killing did not receive large media coverage because of the details surrounding her death, but because someone videotaped the brutal killing and released the footage online.
Throughout Iraq and other parts of the region, attacks similar to the Aswad’s are performed on women who decide to make their own decisions about certain issues like:
In the United States and other western countries, many people believe that it is this type of brutality that the Iraqi War and the democratization of Iraq by the United States was meant to stop. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. There have been more honor killings since the invasion of the United States. This is due largely to the fact the United States has enacted certain measures in the region.
Prior to the stoning, several news agencies reported that Aswad was sheltered by one of the Yazidi tribe’s leader because she feared for her life. She remained in hiding until her family was able to persuade her that she had been forgiven. Others report stated that she was given asylum by a Muslim Sheikh who was in the area. It has not been revealed whether or not the family that contacted her were the ones responsible for her demise.
The video also does not clearly show whether she was ambushed in the street or dragged out of her home. The number of attackers have been estimated from the hundreds to the thousands.
The stoning occurred in Bashika. She was taken to the center of town, and stripped nude to show that she disrespected her family and dishonored her religion. The stoning lasted for 30 minutes and Aswad can be seen in the video begging for help and attempting to stand. After she died, her body was dragged through the streets tied to the back of the car. Her body was buried with the dead body of a dog, to further disrespect her.
Understanding Honor Killings
These are killings that committed by men so they can ‘restore honor’ to their families after a woman has committed an immoral act. These murders are similar to the ‘crimes of passion’ murders that occur in the United States, Europe and Latin America. The woman who is murder, as well as those who attempt to defend her, is seen as guilty because she dishonored her family.
The honor killing of Du’a Khalil Aswad serves as a reminder. Countless women are faced every day with death threats and intimidation when choosing to go against cultural norms.