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“Honour killings” persist in Kurdish north

[Iraq] A rape victim in Baghdad speaks to IRIN about her traumatic experience. [Date picture taken: 2005/09/12]
The number abused women in Iraq is increasing, according to officials. (IRIN)

At least 27 Iraqi Kurdish women have been murdered for having illicit affairs in so-called “honour killings” in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan over the past four months, an official from the regional government said on 4 December.

“Ten murdered women were from Arbil, 11 from Dahouk and six from Sulaimaniyah [the three provinces making up the Kurdish region], while 97 other women - 60 in Arbil, 21 in Dahouk and 16 in Sulaimaniyah - had tried to commit suicide by self-immolation during the four months,” said Youssif Mohamed Aziz, the regional minister of human rights.

“Since the beginning of this year, the regional government of Kurdistan has formed a committee… to address all forms of violence against women and especially the `honour killings’,” Aziz said.

Since then, he said, awareness-raising campaigns had been conducted, human rights education had been introduced in schools, and Muslim leaders had been denouncing the phenomenon as being against Islam.

Tough penalties

According to a 26 November report by Kurdistan’s Human Rights Ministry, the number of women who committed suicide by setting themselves on fire increased from 36 in 2005 to 133 in 2006, and murders of women rose from four in 2005 to 17 in 2006.

“Honour killings”, driven by the view that a family’s honour is paramount, are an ancient tradition associated with the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Iran and Turkey as well as tribal areas in Pakistan and some Arab societies.

Kurdish officials are now, however, seeking to stem the murders and change attitudes by condemning the custom and threatening tough penalties.

In 2002 Kurdistan's parliament revoked Iraqi laws that allowed defendants to be cleared or treated leniently in the case of an “honour killing”. These laws, it is believed, were instituted by former President Saddam Hussein to curry favour with traditionalists.

UN report

In its reports on human rights in Iraq, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has regularly highlighted “honour killings” as one of Iraq’s most serious human rights abuses.

It has urged the judiciary to send a clear signal that the killing of women to “protect honour” will not be tolerated.

A UNAMI report in June 2007 said incidents involving violence against women in the Kurdistan region had increased by 18 percent between March and May of 2006.

Citing official Kurdistan Regional Government statistics, UNAMI recorded 15 deaths caused by blunt objects, 87deaths by burning and 16 deaths by shooting in the first quarter of 2007. In the second quarter, there were eight deaths caused by blunt objects, 108 deaths by burning and 21 deaths by shooting.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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