Reclaiming 'honour'

The sickening death of Banaz Mahmod is widely covered today. This, you’ll remember, is the case of the young Kurdish woman who was killed by members of her family in London for the “crime” of having a lover her family didn’t approve of.

It’s surely right that police officers are now facing disciplinary action after failing to respond adequately despite Banaz repeatedly warning them her life was in danger. But, a written warning for some of the detectives involved? Is that enough? Jerome Taylor’s Indyblog strikes the right note of outrage about systemic failings in the case.

Taylor also notes that some of Banaz’s killers are reportedly even now living scot-free in Kurdish Iraq after fleeing the country. From what I know about Kurdish Iraq and "honour" killings, this seems all too credible.

In just the first six months of last year alone, for example, the United Nations says that in the region 255 women and girls were murdered in “honour” killings - 195 were actually burnt to death.  Coincidentally, it’s almost exactly a year now since Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death in Kurdish Iraq by members of her own family as "punishment" for a relationship with a teenager they didn’t approve of. She apparently took half an hour to die. She was 17.

Almost unbelievably, Du’a Khalil was killed in public. Hundreds of people watched (some taking photos on their mobiles) while about eight men killed her by throwing chunks of concrete at her head. The police looked on, apparently there to see "justice done".

Amnesty’s indefatigable women’s campaigner Heather Harvey is speaking about this case at a special event on 12 April. This is going to honour Du’a Khalil’s memory (kind of reclaiming the word “honour”) and if you’re in London that day and want to help stamp out the abomination that is “honour" killing – please go along.

Finally, while I’m in plugging mode (and apologies to non-London people here) … try to catch one or two of the films at the excellent London International Documentary Film Festival, which runs until this Saturday.  Both the ones I’ve been to so far have been good – a Tibet film last weekend (The Unwinking Gaze) and one last night about a female NASA astronaut denied her “right” to space travel by chauvinistic politicians.

The bonus is that all LIDFF films are preceded by a sneak preview of Amnesty’s new film on … wait for it … waterboarding. I’ll say no more, other than the Amnesty shocker starts out looking like a vodka advert. 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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