May 5,  2007
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Yazidi girl's murder sparks widespread condemnation

The Globe

Fears of sectarian violence between Muslims and Yazidis arise as incidents between the two continue to escalate.

Hundreds of women from various parts of Kurdistan Region took to the streets of Erbil on Sunday to protest the brutal killing of Du'a Khalil Aswad, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl, and Kurdistan government called for the murderers to be brought to justice.

"We do strongly condemn the killing of women under the pretext of honor and the killing and mutilating of the body of Du'a on April 7, 2007," a statement released by the protesters read.

The rally came as police in Bashiqa, a district northeast of Mosul where the incident took place, said that two arrests have been made in the murder, and four others who have been implicated, including two of the victim's uncles, have escaped.

Around 40 women and feminist organizations from various parts of Kurdistan Region organized the rally.

"Taking revenge on women under the pretext of honor is a terrorist act," read a banner carried by the demonstrators.

The protesters called upon the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to take decisive action regarding the incident, and work to stop honor killings and set a limitation for the power of tribal chiefs.

Meanwhile, describing Dua's stoning to death as a "grave tragedy", a KRG statement released yesterday called on Iraqi authorities to "take necessary measures in the area where the crime was committed."

Bashiqa is part of the disputed areas between Kurdish and Iraqi governments and is currently under Iraqi government's jurisdiction.

The KRG cited amending articles in Iraq penal code that deal with honor killing in 2002, as an example of its determination to fight such crimes in Kurdistan. However, many human rights groups accuse the KRG of still being lenient on individuals involved in honor killing.

The KRG said that it has punished 40 people involved in honor-killings in Erbil and Dohuk provinces over the past five years and that another 24 men are awaiting trial on similar charges.

The killing of Du'a has sparked widespread condemnation inside and outside Kurdistan.

"This crime has touched off a desperate attempt to disrupt the peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Yazidi Kurds, and the majority of those who carried out this crime are now under arrest and will be tried according to law," Kamal Kirkuki, Kurdistan Parliament's Deputy Speaker said to protestors on Sunday.

Amnesty International, an international organization that monitors human rights conditions, condemned the murder "in the strongest terms" and called on Iraqi authorities to take immediate steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. In case of a trial, however, Amnesty International warned against a death penalty sentence for the killers.

Du'a was brutally killed by dozens of young men in the sub-district of Bahzan (pat of Bashiqa district), northeast of Mosul, because of her alleged relations with a young Sunni Muslim boy. A gruesome video of the killing, posted on internet Web sites, shows fanatic youths torturing her to death by beating her and later throwing big concrete blocks, which weighed at least 10 kilos, on her back and head.

There are conflicting reports as to whether she converted to Islam, which may have led to her death, but chief Yazidi leaders have denied her conversion, saying the motives had only to do with honor issues.

The killing sparked tensions in the sectarian-mixed areas of Mosul province where Yazidis and Muslims have lived together for centuries. A few days after Du'a's murder, an extremist Sunni insurgent group executed 23 Yazidi workers on a road that links the volatile city of Mosul to Bashiqa in the east. Another two Yazidi policemen were killed in Mosul last Sunday as well.

The incident is the second in a series of sectarian incidents between the Yazidis and Muslims in the area. Last year, a group of Muslim tribesmen attacked several Yazidi buildings in Shekhan, a district east of Mosul, because of honor issues sparked over the fate of a Muslim girl.

These successive incidents have sparked fears that a sectarian conflict may arise in the area between Muslims and Yazidis.

Yazidis are followers of an ancient Mesopotamian faith that dates back thousands of years; their population in Iraq is estimated to be around half a million.

The Yazidis' Supreme Spiritual Council issued a statement on Friday, April 27, in which it condemned the murder of Du'a and described it as a "brutal and ugly act."

Kurdish authorities have vowed to follow up on the issue by establishing an investigative committee.


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