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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Honour killings increasing By Amanda Lindhout In Iraq - July 12, 2008

There has been a sharp increase in so-called “honour killings” in Iraq since 2003, as chaos and religious fundamentalism has swept the country.
If a female is suspected of being “dishonourable,” it is often considered the duty of male family members to murder her to save the family’s name.

Beheading, stoning and strangulation are the most common ways the women are killed.

Yanar Mohammed, founder of the Organization For Women’s Rights in Iraq, ceaselessly campaigns to bring attention the increase of violence against women in her homeland.

Honour Killings

They are called “honour killings,” but there is nothing honourable about them.

A terrifying development in wartorn Iraq is a dramatic increase of violent acts against women accused of bringing dishonour to their families.

Sanctioned under an article in Iraq’s criminal code, Iraqi males are permitted to murder their wives, daughters, sisters or mothers whom they suspect have defiled the family by breaking traditional rules of chastity and fidelity.

Inside the Organization for Women’s Rights in Iraq, founder Yanar Mohammed says that the chaos of war has brought about a rash of honour killings as the rise of religious fundamentalism has grown, bringing with it strict rules that women must abide by.

“As a woman in Iraq, you are sandwiched between the terrorists from the militia groups and the tribal mentality of your own family that will not accept any female who chooses to love on her own terms.”

Mohammed is passionate about empowering Iraqi women and to educating the world about this female genocide.

She left Iraq after the Gulf War and obtained Canadian citizenship in 1995. With a master’s degree in architecture, she lived and worked in Toronto until 2003.

That year, she received a call from a friend in Baghdad who told her the situation for women had deteriorated with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s secular government.

She saw a chance to help her sisters in Iraq. And despite the rising violence, Mohammed set up her first office for women’s rights in an old bank building that had been burned down.

“Our aim was to provide shelters for women, to give them another alternative to being killed.”

With some assistance provided by international women’s groups, Mohammed established a proper office in a central Baghdad neighbourhood.

Many of her 25 staff members are women she has rescued from prisons, prostitution and the streets. They fearlessly venture into the city’s most volatile neighbourhoods to get help and education to women trapped inside.

Mohammed estimates that as many as 3,000 women are killed in Iraq each year over issues of “honour.” They are commonly beheaded, strangled or stoned.

Often these acts are carried out in public.

Last year, Du’a Khalil Aswad, a pretty 17-year-old girl, was stoned to death in northern Iraq while a crowd of hundreds of men cheered and looked on.

Her crime? Falling in love with a boy of a different faith.

The stoning was filmed on a number of mobile phones, inevitably ending up on the Internet – prompting the international community to express a brief surge of interest in women’s rights in Iraq.

Still, organizations like the Organization For Women’s Rights In Iraq can barley manage to make ends meet.

They struggle with a lack of support, seriously limiting their scope of work.

The Iraqi government has refused to legalize Mohammed’s two women’s shelters, making her work dangerous from all sides.

She is still afraid to hang a sign outside their door. She speaks of police visits to their office and, on multiple occasions, having the organization’s funds frozen in bank accounts.

But she perseveres.

This year, Yanar Mohammed was the recipient of the prestigious Peter Grouper Award for working on women’s rights in a conflict zone.

“The funding that’s starting to come in supports us nine months ahead. After that, we don’t know if the project can go on,” she says.

“I don’t know that any part of our work is easy, but we are still going, and we will keep trying until we make it work.”

She has helped numerous women, taking them from dangerous environments, educating them, teaching them employable skills and eventually relocating the women in another part of Iraq.

“We tell them, there is a day you will be strong. You will be safe and you will be outspoken. That day you will want to help other women in need, because you will know, better then anyone, what is possible.”


  1. (from the national post) came across a traveler's blog that might be referencing Amanda . Below is an except from Adam Katz travel writings.

    On one trip to Cairo I meet a woman named Amanda. I have to confess that I can be overly judgmental sometimes. This attractive brunette walks into our shitty little $2 a night guesthouse with her hair, makeup and nails done. My first thought is that she needs to go back to the touristy beach resort where she belongs. But then she sits down and starts telling stories. I traveled to edge of the war zone in Uganda; she traveled right through it. I walked through the little desert in southwest of Ethiopia; she took a camel through the big desert in the southeast Ethiopia. She's been to Afghanistan, and insanely enough, she's in Cairo trying to get a tourist visa for Iraq.

    Amanda has been shot at - I think I'm jealous. Am I craving adventure that much?

    But my favorite story of hers was of her trip from Ethiopia to Sudan. We took the same road. I took it during the day. She took it at night, and their truck was robbed. She starts flattering and begging them.

    "Sudan is the most beautiful country in the world, with the friendliest people."

    "I'm dreamed of seeing Sudan since I was a little girl."

    "And now I won't be able to see your beautiful country, because I don't have any money."
    "Can I please have some of my money back?"

    Amazingly they gave her most of her money back. I guess, through a combination and flattery and begging, a beautiful woman can get away with almost anything. She did get her tourist visa for Iraq, made it in and out safely, hanging out in the red zone with bombs going off everywhere.

  2. How is that beauty and charm working for her now? Sadly, she has simply become another neo-liberal, post-national, multicultural enthusiast confronted with the reality of, well, the real world.