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Kurdistance: The Honor Killing of Dua

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Arts & Culture, Ethnicity & Race, Human Rights, Religion, Women & Gender

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 [1] 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 [2], 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 [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [6]and this commentary piece (and the comment discussion) [7]. 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.