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Women in Iraq More Unsafe Than Ever

One almost freezes in horror watching the ghastly video. A slender girl dragged along by her headlocks, on the ground then, covering her head as stones are hurled in a torrent, then her head is smashed with a concrete block, blood oozes from her head, the body is still and then victorious shouts are heard.

In the eyes of many in her community in northern Iraq, the crime of Duaa Khalil Aswad, 17, was to love a boy from another religion. She was a Yazidi, an insular religious sect. He was a Sunni Muslim. To her uncle and cousins that was reason enough to put her to death in the village of Bashiqa last month.

Accounts of what happened to Duaa vary, but some things are clear. She had begun a relationship with a young Sunni Arab. In an effort to separate the two, and apparently to protect Duaa from an enraged uncle and cousins, her father took her to a Yazidi priest's house in Bashiqa. Duaa remained there for a week until April 7, when the uncle and at least two cousins abducted her from the priest's custody.

"There is a new Taliban controlling the lives of women in Iraq," said Hana Edwar, the leader of the Amal Organisation for Women in Baghdad.

"I think this story will be absolutely repeated again."

Kurds who had suffered the most under Saddam Hussein are the most friendly ethnic group for the occupation forces.

But obviously that does not make them more open to liberal values. If anything they would like to cover it up.

Kurds, who include Yazidis, suspect that Sunni Arabs circulated the gruesome images to fuel anger against Yazidis and undermine the Kurdish community, which exercises a degree of autonomy in northern Iraq and is seeking more.

"It seems they are trying to make it big for political purposes," said Mohsen Gargari, a Kurdish MP.

In an interview, he and two other Kurdish MPs condemned Duaa's killing. But they said that in February a Sunni woman had been k illed by relatives for having a relationship with a Yazidi man. "Nobody talked about it. Nobody filmed it or turned it into a big issue," he said.

In a report published last month, the United Nations said that in January and February alone, at least 40 women had been killed in Iraq for "immoral conduct", which can range from sitting in a car with a man who is not a relative to having an adulterous relationship. Unlike Duaa's death, none was known to have caused revenge attacks, much less political sniping.

The Yazidis say they have faced persecution under a succession of rulers because of their religious beliefs. They are neither Christian nor Muslim and worship a blue peacock known as Malak Taus.


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