Kurdistance: The Honor Killing of Dua

This may seem like old news….but it isn't. Even though the tragic honor killing of a young girl in Northern Iraq/Southern Kurdistan took place in early April, sometimes the meaning of these sad stories take a while to surface. There are conflicting reports about how 17-year-old Dua died, some say that she was lynched, some stoned to death, others say both. What we do know was that Dua was a young girl in love, who left her Yezidi faith to live her life with a man that she loved. She was brave and idealistic; and she died horribly because of it. A mob of Yezidi men dragged her into the street, tore her clothes to shame her, and then the mob killed her…the final blow being a large rock taken to her head. And someone filmed this horror, which is floating around the internet somewhere if you truly wish to see it. What is important, is that this tragedy not only is sad in the individual sense of this girl's death, it is also sad in what it signifies for a culture and society eager to change, but unable to, as the Kurdish bloggers point out.

While all Kurdish bloggers have condemned the death of Dua, the discussion has been focused around women's rights. Iraqi Kurdistan, while discussing how Kurdistan is falling behind in implementing increased women's rights, gives an excellent summary of what honor killings are:

Having lived in a western society for the last 14 years, where women have equal rights to men both constitutionally, legally, culturally and socially and at the same time being a Kurd, who spend most of his life before that in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, one cannot avoid making comparisons about the state of women in both those cultures.
What made me think about this issue more recently, was the local Kurdish statistics which showed an increase in the numbers of the so-called “Honour killings”, which are usually perpetrated by one or more male members of a family, usually a brother or a father or a cousin, against a female member of the family, usually a daughter or a sister or a wife or a cousin, mainly because this female member was judged by the family, to have spoiled the honour of the family, a concept which means a real or purported emotional or sexual relationship outside the boundaries of marriage, even if that the female member was raped against her will and even if the perpetrator was a member of the family or someone close to the family. The punishment is almost always for the female part of the equation, leaving the male partner practically unscathed, as it`s usually the female who is conceived as the symbol of honour in such societies.
Reading the local newspapers of Kurdistan, you notice alarming statistics of thousands of women being killed or women falling victims to severe fatal burns, a method of suicide popular in Kurdistan by desperate women who find themselves threatened or humiliated or abused by other members of the family, by pouring kerosene on their bodies and setting themselves alight, usually enduring 80-90% of third degree burns, which is almost always fatal. Surprisingly every other member of the family appears complacent about the accident and portray it as an accident, and mostly without shedding any tears or showing any signs of sorry for the victim.

Kurdistan Aspect covers the state of honor killings in Kurdistan and some of the specific cultural ideals that play into it:

Despite that we come to know that the Yazidi society suffers serious shortcoming. It has still a caste system. We can also expect that they suffer all the ills that afflict and finally cripple any ideological systems, if not the world – the way Islam is currently besetting the world.
The next shocking aspect of Yazidi culture that I have discovered was the way women are treated. A few months ago, a Yazidi lady published a critical view about the treatment of women within her society. It was clear that Yazidi women are treated even worse than Muslim women. The impression one would get is that the sexual act within the Yazidi marriage does not differ considerably from rape. The man is expected to be as rough as possible without slightest regard to her feelings or humanity. However, here we cannot ignore that such an attitude might have been also influenced by Islam. It might be a case of impressionable victim taking after the aggressor, when the aggressor is not punish and left to make ill-begotten gains and claim glory on top of all that, as Muslims do.[5] It seems that Yazidis have been trying to convey a message to the Islamic neighborhood that although they differ slightly in their religions they share all other values with Muslims, particularly in regard to women, whose sexuality seems to have become the pivot of Yazidi and Islamic men’s honor.

In all ideological system one should expect the maltreatment of the weaker parties. The treatment of women was not in fact much better when Christianity dominated the political life in Europe.

Blogger Karer of Kurdistan notes how this common tragedy is even apart of ballads and love songs of the region:

They would not marry an outsider who is from their Yezidi belief. They would kill a Yezidi girl who marries a Muslim Kurd etc. They are very strict in preserving this tradition. So they would marry among themselves. Kurdish love songs are full of such tragedies. The young girl who is a Yezidi may not marry her lover who is a Muslim Kurd. The songs contain sad lyrics about the tragic loves just because the beliefs are different.

A few days ago, Kurdish Web sites were discussing a Kurdish girl killed by a mob in Iraqi Kurdistan. The girl was of Yezidi fell in love with a Muslim Kurd and ran away with him. The Yezidi relatives found her and killed her in mob styles. Yezidis, I believe, would not accept converts; you are either born as a Yezidi or not. I bet many young people have loved each other from Yezidi and other religions but could not marry because there is not escape out of it. I wonder how it is now among the Yezidis in Germany where most of the Yezidis from Kurdistan (Turkey) live now. I would like to see the impact of the German society on the Yezidis in Germany whether or not they have relaxed their traditions in that regard. The tragedy happened a few days ago spilled cold water on heart on the tightly knit societies and belief systems that allow revenge as a mode of solution no matter what the ethnic background is—Kurd, Turks, Arab, or Persian.

And Rasti notes that a fundamental change is needed:

One might also ask if the reason the KRG finally issued a condemnation of the murder is also because “non-Kurdish fundamentalists and foreign organizations began discussing the issue.” I would add that it's not enough that this be a problem addressed by women's organizations because it is not simply a “women's problem.” It is a domestic problem and a societal problem, which means that everyone, including men, are involved and must fight for change.

All of the posts that I have linked to today have been excellent, and I recommend reading them all in their entirety. If you are interested in news commentaries on this subject, I also recommend this article and this commentary piece (and the comment discussion). This is definitely a subject which needs to be explored more in depth. Next week we will cover what bloggers are saying about the Ilisu Dam project in Northern Kurdistan/Southeast Turkey and give you a visual tour of the region.


  • A Kurdish man (the ‘dad’) was convicted in a London court today for another ‘honor killing.’

    Apparently, the girl left her husband and fell in love with another man. An Iranian Kurd who the dad considered ‘not a strict Muslim.’

  • pp

    honour killings are not just among the kurdish community, it happens in most narrow minded asian societies. i am a 21 year old girl from a kurdish background, i have a boyfriend who my family are aware of and im still breathing! i had a friend who was a victim of an honour killing 5 years ago, so i have personal experience of it.
    regarding the Du’a killing, everybody that i know was sickned by that poor girls tragic death and i was actualy sick when i saw the video. there were endless debates on kurdish websites and tv so this is not the way all kurdish people think!
    my heart goes out to all those victims of honour killings but i believe in karma so i truely believe those responsible will get whats coming to them.
    rest in peace Du’a and all other victims.

  • John Walker

    As a parent of two children,I was sickened and disturbed by this appalling tragedy. How in God’s name can someone do that to another human being? And where is the honor in this? I thank God every day that I was born in the United States of America, where the notion of ‘human rights’ actually means something. I hate to even think about what poor Du’a was feeling and thinking when this took place. Out of hundreds of people there, not one lifted a hand to help her. What a beautiful person she must have been. What a beautiful life that was snuffed out. If only she could have been born in America. Du’a, rest in peace.

  • G3

    Nadina, does anybody really care what their “frame of mind was”? I think they knew exactly what they were doing and that it was evil. The obvious excitement in the faces of the murderers says enough.

    I couldn’t care less what ethnicity, religion, or background those type of foul souls come from; any justification someone could offer for the harm done to Du’a and others like her is nothing but an excuse. They should do the world a great favor and kill each other, instead!

  • Azzy

    There are no words to describe the atrocity. Far from being called humans, these guys are not even animals coz the beasts dont do this their own.

    The girl loved a boy, she got married to him. Her folks called her back to accept her and then she is put through this. The girl loved her parents, else she wouldnt have ever gone back after finding the love of her life. I wonder how much she must have regretted, cried, begged.

    I never knew what parenthood would be till recent times. What a mother goes through for 9 months and how she brings up a child, only to do this? No words, absolutely no words.

    Its not possible for one to contemplate what she was put through, fear, deceit, agony, pain, humiliation… Death is certain, which ever way it comes to pass. But what I know is that every soul is accountable for their actions & there will be justice in this world or the next. Whether we believe in him or not, we have to face HIM on the Judgement Day.

    We never knew you Dua, but our hearts cry & pray for you coz WE ARE HUMANS.

  • Zhou

    It is an extreme example of women being treated as property in a patriarchal family and society.

  • rip dua. i have 2 study honour killings and its so sad :'( she was so beautiful! hope the people who did this get wot they deserve! poor girl! im druze and i still get a choice who i want 2 marry its not as strict. if u break the religion u dont get killed u just arent classified as druze anymore. poor girl i watched that video and its so sad! STOP HONOUR KILLINGS!
    what more is that sometimes the people that are committing these crimes get off with light or no sentences! this is still murder people!

  • Junna

    may allah punish those animals.am ,kurdish girl by allah what they did to her was really bad.allah is just he well punish those who killed her in this world and herafter.she is with Allah may allah gave her what she needes.Amen

  • Aishah daughter of SALADIN AYUBI

    am kurd and am muslim i agree with Junna may Allah punish those animals.she was only a kid.Allah is just and he hate unjustic.he well punish those who do horrible things.i cant belive it so many cowads men were thir they didnt help her.truly nowaday men is like women shame of them.allah know how to punish murders and injust animals.

  • kurd

    i am kurdish and i’m from iraq and i think the rules and laws of iraq should be changed too. infact i was in iraq when the killing of this poor girl took place. and her killers got what they deserved believe me they did. but other people died too. this action was taken by people who disagreed with the killing. the iraqi government is useless beleive me. i’m from iraq i wouldn’t talk about my country that way if it was a bad enviroment.

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