Du’a Khalil Aswad was a 17-year old girl living in Iraq. A Yazidi of Kurdish descent, she was publicly stoned to death two years ago today.
Some of the details surrounding this young woman’s death are unclear: was she killed for converting to Islam? Was her relationship with a boy the reason the crowd decided that she should die?
Other details we know with bone-chilling clarity: Du’a was stoned by a throng of her own community members. She was then tied to a car, dragged through the streets and buried with the remains of a dog. The video of the stoning, recorded on cellphone cameras, was widely distributed on the internet and even broadcast on major news networks.
We also know that some of Du’a’s immediate family members have been connected to her murder; and that the onlookers recording the barbaric act certainly felt no compulsion to help her. Instead, they recorded her final moments – perhaps proud of what their values had led the crowd to “achieve.”
Unthinkable. Yet, an estimated 8,000 + people – mostly women and girls – lose their lives every year to “honor” killings. While these deaths occur mainly in Muslim-majority countries and communities, they are certainly not exclusive to Muslims. The difference this time is that people the world over have seen the barbarity of the practice – exposing illegitimate tribal customs to the world’s scrutiny. Ironically, those individuals so proud of their own cruelty have helped to fuel the movement against them by filming and releasing the murder of Du’a Khalil Aswad.
And we’re responding. Muslims and non-Muslims alike have headed into the streets to protest “honor” killings, including in Iran, where 2000 individuals stormed the streets against the practice after the murder of an 18-year old girl there. Women are taking an especially vocal stance against honor violence and extremism.
Non-Muslims in Europe are responding too – read about Finnish activist Raija Ala-Lipasti here. I’ve shared this with you before: in the UK, a helpline has been started to assist those at risk for honor-based violence.
While we have not won the fight against honor violence, strides are being made against it – and Du’a’s memory must propel us forward in this most important battle. As I’ve said in previous posts – may we not let these innocents die in vain. While Du’a’s death was an unconscionable display of human evil, it must also be a call to action for those with just hearts.
* Please support the International Campaign Against Honour Killings here.
* Learn about Stop Child Executions here. SCE works not just to combat honor violence, but against all executions of children.
* Check out Muslimah Media Watch regularly. These sisters represent a wide variety of opinions – and keep us up-to-date on the latest happenings in the Muslim world.
* Stay informed with the help of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.