What was the crime which Du'a Khalil Aswad committed? The seventeen year old Iraqi girl did something that millions of other seventeen year old girls do. She fell in love. With a boy about her age (sixteen, to be exact). She left home for a few hours to be with him, in fact she was gone all night. Maybe she had sex with him-- we don't know whether she did or not, and it doesn't matter whether she did.
And what was her punishment? She was stoned to death (warning-- the link contains two still photos of her dying on the street, taken from a video that was shot of the murder).
A 17-year-old girl has been stoned to death in Iraq because she loved a teenage boy of the wrong religion.
As a horrifying video of the stoning went out on the Internet, the British arm of Amnesty International condemned the death of Du’a Khalil Aswad as "an abhorrent murder" and demanded that her killers be brought to justice.
Reports from Iraq said a local security force witnessed the incident, but did nothing to try to stop it. Now her boyfriend is in hiding in fear for his life.
Miss Aswad, a member of a minority Kurdish religious group called Yezidi, was condemned to death as an "honour killing" by other men in her family and hardline religious leaders because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy.
Oh. Not only did she spend a night with her boyfriend, but (horror of horrors) he belonged to a different religion.
And somehow that is supposed to justify what happened after that. A group of eight or nine men, some of whom were her relatives, went into a home where she was taking sanctuary, dragged her out onto the street and over a period of about half an hour murdered her by throwing stones at her.
It is tempting to blame the U.S. presence in Iraq, but that would be wrong. This may have happened in Iraq, but the U.S. occupation has nothing to do with it (though the failure of local authorities to do anything about it is typical of what we've seen from Iraqi police and government officials.) For one thing, this sort of thing happens all the time, all over the middle east. Women or girls who even look at a man the wrong way can face the most severe punishment, including not only death by stoning but also by stabbing, beating with clubs, fists or rifle butts, burning to death, being boiled alive and pretty much any other unspeakably brutal way you can think of that a man or a group of men could kill a woman. As religious fundamentalism has spread in Iraq (not just Islamic-- these people were members of a cult opposed to Islam), so have age old, and truly monstrous traditions for 'dealing' with anything other than a 100% subservient, docile, cowering and obedient woman.
We've also seen that post-Saddam Iraq has only followed along with the rest of the middle east in that most nations now deny women equal rights and privileges pertaining to civil matters like divorce, custody and inheritances as they give to men. In fact, some of the first laws passed by the Iraqi parliament under the new Constitution codified in law that women would be second class citizens. Girls still have the right to get an education beyond the elementary school level, but one wonders how long even that will last.
We must condemn 'honor killings' as nothing other than barbaric acts of the most hideous, cruel and foul murder. There must never be any such thing as 'honor' associated with such heinous crimes.
A start that we could do as Americans would be to press our government, when considering whether to grant asylum to refugees, to give preference to women over men from the middle east, specifically because they have reason to fear persecution. Just living as a typical woman in a place where the smallest transgression can lead to a grisly murder is a type of persecution.
And if we did publically do this, at least it would make much more clear that we as a people disapprove of this sort of thing than the lack of action that we have taken in the past seems to suggest.