I have struggled hard to find the words to commemorate sweet 17 year old Du’a.
And still I cannot find any words to do her justice.
Maybe there are no words to commemorate a teenager stoned to death in the Iraqi Kurdish hillside village of Basshiqa for being in love with the ‘wrong’ 19-year-old boy.
A mobile phone clip shows her being dragged from the sheikh’s house to the marketplace in a headlock, wailing and screaming as police watch on. There, her beautiful body is faced with a hail of stones and she is repeatedly kicked. Finally her uncle approaches her as she tries to struggle to her feet and smashes a huge piece of concrete over her head.
The mob then dumps her bloodied and battered body in a rubbish pit.
No one tells her parents – who do not want her killed – that she is dead until the next day. Her two brothers then dig her body out so she can be buried in a cemetery.
Later, her mother, Badiaa Aswad, is seen at her grave howling and caressing the plain concrete headstone saying: “The last thing you told me was that you were hungry. Come home. Let me cook, and feed you.”
But Du’a will not be coming home.
Nor will many other often nameless faceless women and girls killed in the name of some vile honour.
At least 5,000 every year according to the United Nations.
In Britain alone up to 17,000 women are subjected to honour-related kidnapping, sexual assault, beatings and murder every year – most of them in their very homes and by those closest to them – their fathers, brothers, husbands and extended family members.
Since Du’a’s murder, more have been killed and even stoned, including Sara Jaffar Nimat last August – she was just 11 years old.
As I said it is hard to find the words to do Du’a justice.
But justice is all that we have left to offer if we are to truly commemorate her life.
And part of that means holding that which is responsible to account.
Most honour killings take place in countries ruled by Islam or in Islam-ridden communities including in the west. We need to say this.
Of course sex division, discrimination in the production process, a disadvantaged section within the working class are good for profits, which is why we can’t seem to get rid of violence against women though many old traditions, customs and practices have disappeared when no longer relevant.
Of course there is patriarchy, misogyny and violence against women in all societies, not just those ruled by Islam. In the United States 10 women are killed every day. In Sweden, according to 1989 data, one woman is killed every 10 days by someone she knows.
But focusing on one form of violence does not mean the denial of other forms of violence against women and only seems to become an issue when the matter being raised is linked to Islam. When it comes to those whose rights are deemed culturally relative a million and one prefects step up to list every single issue in the world that is either just as important or more important.
I mean we are not even allowed to call it honour killings; domestic violence is the preferred terminology so as to avoid causing offence to Islam.
And yes I know all religions are misogynist and discriminatory and obsessed with controlling women, sex and sexuality not just Islam. After all, Du’a’s family were Yazidi.
Nonetheless, there is a distinction that must be made with Islam in this day and age because it is the banner of a political movement; because it has state power; because is vying for political power; because Islam is part and parcel of the state machinery and the law in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
When Du’a is killed in broad daylight, the police stand by and watch. Those responsible are not arrested. Even if anyone ever is – which is rare – Article 111 of the Iraqi penal code will allow for reduced sentences in cases where “dishonour” is established as a motive.
Not only that but the state and the law, the police, the judiciary, the imams and the sheikhs are all in agreement that such killings are necessary, and even honourable, in order to maintain the social order and control the women who bring chaos in society by transgressing Islamic norms and rules.
Stoning is actually legal in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan. This year, over half a dozen women in Iran were sentenced to stoning, with three known official stonings since 2006; two women await stoning in Sudan, and a couple have just this past week been stoned in Pakistan.
You cannot do justice to the victims of honour killings if you do not point the finger at Islamic states and the political Islamic movement, which is the biggest mass murderer of women in this day and age.
As Sayyid Hazim al-Araqi, Moqtada al-Sadr’s representative in Baghdad says: if you crack down on honour killings, you will only encourage adultery.
And as a top cleric in the Islamic regime of Iran said recently, women who do not respect Islamic rules are the ‘source of all that is bad in society.’
This doesn’t take blame away from US-led militarism, which is directly responsible for the encouragement and growth of the political Islamic movement, including in today’s Iraq. It doesn’t ignore other forms of violence against women.
But in the 21st century, honour killings are as much the symbol of the Islamic movement as veiling and sexual apartheid are. Despite the attention and outrage, they are on the rise because this movement is on the rise. And we can only really begin to stop honour killings if we stop this movement in its tracks.
In her last moments, Du’a struggled to stand even when surrounded by a mob who were out to kill her. She refused to do what was expected of her in life and in death.
She is both the personification of the vile and subhuman status of women under Islamic rule but also the refusal and resistance of millions of men and women against 21 century barbarity. To commemorate Du’a we must stand up to the political Islamic movement with the resisting people of the Middle East and elsewhere to say enough is enough!
The above was Maryam Namazie’s speech commemorating Du’a at an April 12, 2008 conference in London organised by the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. To see a video of the speech, click here.
To see Maryam Namazie’s response to questions on whether men are to blame for women’s rights violations, the extent of Islam’s role, whether criticism of Islam is anti-Muslim, and her opinion on various interpretations of Islam, click here.
This was first published in WPI Briefing 204, May 8, 2008.