In the Name of Honour

In her first Voice article, Alessandra tackled a tough subject: so-called honour killings. She gave this broad topic a personal focus through the case of 17-year-old Du?a Khalil Aswad. This article originally appeared October 5, 2007, in issue 1537.

She is kicked again and again and again. At one point, what looks like a concrete block is thrown on her. Whether this is the fatal blow or not is unclear. What is clear with frightening certainty is that the girl, 17-year-old Du?a Khalil Aswad, lies dead, murdered in cold blood by an angry mob; murdered because as a Yezidi girl she loved the wrong man, a Sunni Muslim. And the people of the village, among them her own family, killed her in the name of ?honour.?

The four-minute video tells you none of this of course. It only documents the murder of a girl, like thousands of other girls, for whom it is too late. What motives the unknown poster had for putting it online may never be known.

Optimists would like to think he did it to alert the world to the atrocities known as honour killings still being committed in Iraq and all over the world. The pessimist in me says he did it for an entirely different reason: to warn other Kurdish girls like Du?a that this is what happens when you step out of line.

What is unique about this case is that the frenzied crowd intent on killing Du?a was captured on the cellphones of the very people who are kicking, stomping, and ultimately killing her by crushing her head with a cinder block. What is so heart-rending is the fact that we get to see that Dua is alive and trying to protect her body as best she can from these men; men who probably watched her grow up and maybe grew up with her.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. A 25-year-old British Columbian beautician was kidnapped and taken to Punjab where she was murdered, again for loving the wrong man?in this case a poor auto rickshaw driver. In Kurdistan, a girl burns to death every day. In Pakistan, a woman was axed to death.

In Du?a’s case, retaliation was swift: 23 Yadizi men were killed by Muslims and four of her assailants were arrested.

But there were an estimated one thousand in the crowd the day she was killed. One thousand people, some who were the assailants, some who egged the assailants on, and all who could have stopped the brutal onslaught but chose not to.

According to UN statistics, these cases are only scraping the surface. Du?a Khalil Aswad’s murder is only one of the 5,000 honour killings that will be carried out this year.

Five thousand is a large, daunting number. Instead remember one: Du?a Khalil Aswad who died at 17 for loving the wrong man.

And while you remember her, ask what you can do to stop honour killings. Sites like the International Campaign Against Honour Killings and Amnesty International are great places to start.