Kurdistan - the other Iraq

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by ekrem, Nov 27, 2005.

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    "Honour-Based Killings" in Kurdistan and the Kurdish Diaspora, Dr Nazand Begikhani, Kurdish Women Action Against Honour Killings

    The first part of Dr Nazand Begikhani’s presentation focused on definitions and strategies in addressing ‘honour killing’ in Iraqi Kurdistan, particularly the need to understand the cultural and historical specificity of a given context - a need to understand the social norms through which society operates. In the Kurdish context, the negative stereotyping of Kurdish people and populations, in general and in relation to simplistic and sensational media reporting on ‘honour killings’, creates significant difficulty for those working from the inside. The second part of the presentation focused on the role of the community in ‘honour killings’ as indicated firstly, by the need to restore honour and secondly, the involvement of the extended family/community in the commission of the murder. The conception of such killings as motivated by the restoration or repurification of ‘honour’, rather than death, is often indicated by the violence involved, which usually exceeds causing death. Dr Begikhani drew attention to the recent case of Heshu Yones who was violently stabbed to death by her father in West London. In drawing attention to the role of the family and/or community Dr Begikhani noted that this was particularly visible in Kurdistan of Turkey and also in the Diaspora, where there have been documented cases of ‘family councils’ instructing minor males of the family to kill the female victim, as well as cases of hired assassins. However, combating ‘honour killings’ in the Kurdish community requires analysing the deeply embedded cultural notions of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ rather than simply demonising the whole community.
    http://www.soas.ac.uk/honourcrimes/Events_Change.htm


    Focus on honour Killings
    http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=39526&SelectRegion=Iraq_Crisis&SelectCountry=IRAQ

    Sweden:
    "Fadime's brother told police that honor killing is part of our culture. But most Kurds don't believe that," said the 33-year-old activist, wife, mother and recording industry executive.
    http://amarillo.com/stories/030802/usn_debatein.shtml


    Kurdish Women's Action Against Honour Killings (KWAHK) a network of Kurdish and non-Kurdish activists, lawyers and academic researchers, say that in northern Iraq, more than 4,000 women have been maimed and killed to date in the name of honour and that the killers have not been brought to justice.
    The threat of honour killings still looms large. Um Sabah sent her daughter to Syria, afraid that her father would discover what had happened and to protect her from an honour killing as male relatives may accuse her of bringing shame on the family. "I cannot lose my daughter and at least there she can be safe from this horrendous tradition," she exclaimed.
    http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=45975&SelectRegion=Middle_East&SelectCountry=IRAQ


    When you look into these cases of honour-killings happen across Europe, it is all kurdish-ethnicity background. Believe me or not when you do not want to hear this of a mouth from a turkish citizen.









    ‘Honour crimes’
    Most victims of "honour crimes" are women and girls who are considered to have shamed the women’s families by immoral behaviour. Often the grounds for such an accusation are flimsy and no more than rumour. "Honour crimes" are most often perpetrated by male members of the women’s families in the belief that such crimes restore their and the family’s honour.

    In international human rights law, "honour crimes" are recognized as a form of violence against women in the family or community. The rights that they violate include the right to life and security of the person; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and the right to equality before the law and to equal protection of the law. They also deprive women of rights assured by the UN Women’s Convention, for example the rights to choose a marriage partner, to enter into marriage freely, to freedom from discrimination, and to be treated as a human being with dignity and equal rights to men.(59)

    In recent years, reports by Kurdish women’s organizations on violence against women in northern Iraq have gained international attention and been echoed in reports by international organizations. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the UN expert body charged with monitoring implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, noted in 2000 that: "The Committee is…deeply concerned by the violence against women perpetrated through honour killings." The Committee urged the Iraqi government in particular "to condemn and eradicate honour killings and ensure that these crimes are prosecuted and punished in the same way as other homicides".(60) Furthermore, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women referred to the practice of "honour killings" in Iraq in her report of January 2002 to the Commission on Human Rights.(61)

    The UN Commission on Human Rights has addressed "honour killings" in the context of the right to life and called on States to "investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings committed in the name of passion or in the name of honour…and to bring those responsible to justice before a competent, independent and impartial judiciary, and to ensure that such killings, including those committed by…private forces, are neither condoned nor sanctioned by government officials or personnel".(62)

    The organization, Kurdish Women Against Honour Killings (KWAHK), reported that between 1991 and 1998 hundreds of women had died in so-called "honour killings" in northern Iraq. The report listed more than 100 individual cases of women killed during the 1990s by their husbands, brothers, cousins and other family members in northern Iraq.(63) Among reasons given for the killings were that the women had committed adultery, refused to marry against her will, or left home in order to marry a man of her own choice.

    Until legal reforms specifically to address "honour killings" were introduced by the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq between 2000 and 2002, the perpetrators of such killings were either never tried or received generally lenient sentences.(64) In one well-documented case, a court in Dohuk, northern Iraq, accepted the "honourable motivation" of men who had killed a young woman as grounds for leniency in sentencing. (65) Pela, unmarried and living with her family in Sweden, was killed on 24 June 1999 on a visit to the family home in Dohuk. Breen, Pela’s younger sister, heard a shot upstairs. Her uncle, Rezkar Atroshi, came out of the room holding a gun, and claimed that Pela had shot herself. Breen, initially made to leave the house, later managed to get back in. Running upstairs, she found her sister covered in blood but still alive. Pela said that her uncle had shot her. Her mother helped bring her downstairs to the living room. There she was shot in the head and killed by one of her uncles. On 9 October 1999 the Dohuk Criminal Court convicted Pela’s father, Agid Atroshi(66), and her uncle Rezkar of the killing, but gave them each a suspended one-year prison sentence.(67)

    The court referred to a report from the autopsy that "the hymen was broken" and to the defendants’ "honourable motivation" in support of its decision. The Court of Cassation reviewed the verdict and on 22 February 2000 ruled that the one-year sentence be served. In January 2000, Pela’s uncles Rezkar and Dahasz Atroshi were arrested in Sweden. On 12 January 2001 the Stockholm City Court convicted both men of the murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The sentences were confirmed on appeal.

    Mutilation is another form of "honour crime" used in northern Iraq as a punishment for people accused of a relationship considered to be illegitimate. In July 1996, Kajal Khidr, 24 years old and pregnant, was accused of adultery, tortured and mutilated by six members of her husband’s family near the town of Rania, Sulaimaniya governorate. They cut off part of her nose, and told her that she would be killed after the birth of her child. She received treatment at a hospital in Rania, and a further three months of hospital treatment in Sulaimaniya, where she was kept under police protection. She then spent a year in hiding before finding refuge with a women’s organization in Sulaimaniya. With the help of local human rights activists, she fled to Syria in February 1999 and was recognized as a refugee by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In July 2000 she was resettled in a third country where she lives with her daughter. Two of the men who had tortured her were arrested by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) authorities, which controlled the area, but were released within 24 hours on the grounds that they had acted to safeguard the "honour" of the family. No charges were ever brought against them.

    Dunya (not her real name) from the Rania region was forced to marry against her will in 1999. Before her marriage she had been in love with Ahmed (not his real name), her husband’s nephew. In March 2002 her husband accused her of adultery with Ahmed, and the families decided to cut off Dunya’s nose and one of Ahmed’s ears. In September 2002 one of Ahmed’s relatives was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for carrying out the mutilations, two years for each offence.

    Between 2000 and 2002 the Kurdish authorities amended the law so that courts could no longer find "honourable motivation" a mitigating circumstance in "honour crimes" against women.(68)

    However, despite these reforms, Kurdish women’s organizations fear that more efforts are made to conceal "honour killings", in order to avoid the judicial consequences. The Women’s Information and Cultural Centre (WICC) suspects that the bodies of victims of "honour killings" have been hidden, or mutilated to conceal their identities. The Centre has reported recent cases where women have died in suspicious circumstances, and relatives have claimed that the deaths were accidental. One man who had killed his daughter-in-law, Gulestan, in June 2001 in the Balisan area, told the Centre in August 2002:

    "We killed this woman to end the problem. If we did not kill this woman, two families would have got into a fight and maybe 15 people would have died over this. We have tribal customs and we do not take such cases to court… If I did not kill her I may have been told many times that I did not keep my honour… If I did not kill her, whenever I will have a family problem, the issue will be mentioned again."

    He said that they had to act swiftly to prevent the authorities from protecting Gulestan. Although he was aware of the legal amendments regarding "honour killings", he did not expect the case to be brought to trial. An agreement, including the payment of compensation, had been reached with Gulestan’s family, and the local authorities appeared to be aware of the arrangement.(69)

    Women and girls living in hiding to escape "honour killings" have given videotaped interviews about their experiences. One of them, Nivan (not her real name), ran away in 2002 at the age of 16 to marry the man she loved, against the will of her family. Attempts to reconcile her family and her husband’s family, involving religious leaders and local authorities, were unsuccessful. Her family was allegedly behind an attempt to kill her and her husband, and the killing of her husband three months later in mid-2003. Initially detained on suspicion of involvement in the killing, she was released after two months, and now lives with her child in hiding. "I have no future. My family will look for me to kill me. I can never return to my family," she said.

    In recent years several organizations have been established in northern Iraq that offer support for women at risk of violence, including survivors of attempted "honour killings". One of these organizations is the Sulaimaniya-based Asuda Centre for Combating Violence against Women (Asuda Centre), which in August 2002 opened a shelter for women survivors of violence at a secret location.(70) Asuda Centre’s work to protect women who have experienced violence or those at risk includes negotiating with their families. Most organizations operating in northern Iraq and offering support for women who have escaped violence in the home consider a controlled return to the family to be the most likely means of arriving at a long term solution. To ensure a woman’s safe return, the male head of the family is often required to sign an official undertaking to guarantee the woman’s protection. However, an activist of the Sulaimaniya-based women’s centre, Khanzad, told Amnesty International that there had been cases in which families had killed a woman after her arranged return.(71)

    Kurdish women’s rights activists have reported that several women who have remained in a shelter for more than a year, because no settlement with their families could be reached, might only be able to find safety in the long term outside northern Iraq or even outside Iraq altogether.(72)

    Violence associated with "honour crimes" has never been confined to northern Iraq. The Iraqi author, Fuad Tekerly, who worked as a judge in Baghdad, took a stand against such crimes when he published a short story in 1972 about a man claiming that he killed his sister-in-law in order to protect his family honour. The story reveals that the woman was murdered because she had discovered her brother-in-law’s adulterous relationship with a relative.(73)

    More recently, lawyers have spoken of their involvement in cases of "honour killings" in the 1980s and 1990s in central and southern Iraq. A lawyer from Baghdad reported a case in which she was involved in the mid-1990s.(74). She was representing Azima (not her real name), a teenage girl from the Abu Ghraib neighbourhood in Baghdad, who had been arrested after running away from her family with her lover. After several months of negotiations, she was returned to her family, who promised to ensure her safety. However, a month later she was shot dead by her teenage brother. The brother was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for the killing.(75)

    Another lawyer reported details of more than a dozen cases of "honour killings" that have been tried at Basra Criminal Court over the past three decades. She told Amnesty International about the killing of a young single mother in Basra:

    "In the beginning of the 1980s I witnessed a case of ‘honour killing’. I was on my way to the Basra Criminal Court. About 10 metres away from me, I saw a young man talking to a woman holding a baby child. Suddenly he pulled out a pistol and fired at her. The woman fell to the ground. The man lifted her up and pulled the child from beneath her. Then he covered her body, took the child and walked into the court building".

    The murdered woman had become pregnant as a result of a secret relationship. She had turned to the police for protection and had been kept at a police station until her child was about a year old, when she was told to leave. She was apparently on her way to court to seek further protection when her brother killed her. At his trial, he was given a suspended two-year prison sentence.(76)

    The same Basra-based lawyer also reported cases in which the perpetrators of "honour killings" received significantly higher sentences. She recalled a case in the early 1980s in Basra. A young woman was returned to her family shortly after her wedding by her husband, who claimed that she was not a virgin when they married. She was stabbed to death by a member of her family. However, the autopsy report revealed that her hymen was intact, and the perpetrator was sentenced to at least 10 years’ imprisonment.

    The lawyer had experience of negotiations with the families of women seeking protection from threats of "honour crimes", and of the killing of a young woman by a relative one year after a settlement ensuring her safety had been agreed with the family.

    "Honour killings" have continued during and after the Iraq-Iran war, the Gulf war in 1990-91 and the 2003 US-led war on Iraq.

    There is insufficient information available to establish whether the incidence of "honour killings" has increased over the past decades of armed conflict in Iraq. However, during the months of lawlessness following the 2003 US-led invasion, the perpetrators of "honour killings" – like other criminals – were unlikely to be tried. The lack of a functioning judicial system during the months after the 2003 war contributed to an increase in the part played by tribal bodies in resolving conflicts, including in relation to "honour crimes". In one case at the beginning of 2004 in al-‘Amara, there was a settlement between two tribes over an "honour killing". A husband of two wives had killed his second and younger wife when he discovered she had been involved in a love affair while he was absent for several months. The tribal settlement did not provide any punishment for the killing of the woman, but required her family to compensate the husband.(77)
    http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE140012005?open&of=ENG-IRQ
     
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