Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Remember Du'a Khalil Aswad

Two years ago today Du'a Khalil Aswad , a girl of 17 from the minority Kurdish Yezidi religious group, was stoned to death by a group of eight or nine men in the presence of a large crowd in the town of Bashika, near the city of Mosul, northern Iraq.
Du'a Khalil Aswad's murder is said to have been committed by relatives and other Yezidi men because of her relationship with a Sunni Muslim boy and her absence from her home for one night. Her death by stoning took some 30 minutes and was recorded on video film, which was then widely distributed on the internet. The film shows members of local security forces present but failing to intervene or arrest those responsible.
In remembrance of Du’a, the International Coalition Against Honour Killings is making 7th April each year a day of action.
This year they have asked the public to contact the the Kurdistan Regional Government asking what progress there has been in finding and prosecuting Du’a’s killers, and what they intend to do to reduce the rate of ’honour’ killings in Kurdistan. There have been at least 300 other victims since Du’a’s death.
In the UK you can do this by e-mail to uk@krg.org or by letter to

KRG Representation in the United Kingdom
Winchester House,
8th Floor 259-269 Old Marylebone Road

But Kurdistan is not the only culprit. For example when NATO forces hand regional power to traditionalists as a means of sidelining the Taliban the first effect is increased violence against women, often justified by religious courts. And Channel 4’s recent Unseen World programme on Turkey revealed around 200 ‘honour killings’ in the last year - this in what is effectively an EU country!
Amongst recent victims in other countries there have also been at least two British citizens, but the UK government did nothing. Perhaps the victims were neither white, rich nor photogenic enough, or perhaps our politicians just think a tankful of petrol means more to us than a human life.
Then again, the phenomena is coming closer than that too. An International Womens Day conference in London this year heard that a hotline for victims of honour crimes and forced marriages set up by Cleveland Police in November 2007 had taken over 300 calls, while even sleepy Cambridgeshire cops averaged 30 calls per month when they did the same.
I'm sick of the way that when a dog gets mistreated Manx folk react like it's a war crime, yet we've turned a blind eye to domestic violence and child neglect which can even lead to death for decades because it's a 'tradition'.
So where does it stop? In future years is burning your kid alive for wearing make-up or answering back going to be passed off as 'tradition'?
Actually, it's not so far off that now, and I'm not talking about new residents or minority religions either.
Just a few months ago there was a tragic case involving friends of my small daughter. Their mother was self-harming badly and in serious danger of topping either herself or her kids due to the mental cruelty of their fundamentalist throwback of a dad. Not wanting to inconvenience a 'well respected' churchgoer, Manx social services did the obvious - sectioned the mum and left the kids with Dad. As if he even noticed their existence due to his 'preaching commitments'.
The MHK Quintin Gill showed the way a couple of months back, introducing a Bill to end an anomaly which, bizarrely, meant female genital mutilation was not previously a crime on the Isle of Man.
If enough of us speak up we can stop all this faith-based lunacy, before it leads to a local tragedy even our courts and social workers cannot hide from the world.

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