Officials in the Kurdish region of Iraq are seeking to end so-called "honor" killings, the murder of a woman by a relative to protect the family's honor because she became pregnant while unmarried, or engaged in premarital or extramarital sex or other actions that could affect the family, the AP/Miami Herald reports. According to the AP/Herald, honor killings are an ancient tradition in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, as well as in tribal areas of Pakistan and some Arab societies.
Kurdistan's Parliament in 2002 revoked Iraqi laws that dismissed charges or allowed leniency in cases involving honor killings. The British government earlier this year arranged for a delegation of Iraqi Kurds to meet with Pakistani officials to discuss their experiences in combating the practice. "Killing under the pretext of protecting honor is murder," Nechirvan Barzani, the region's prime minister, said in July.
Advocates against honor killings have welcomed the regional government's efforts to halt the custom by publicly condemning it and warning about harsh penalties for those who commit the act. Runak Faraj -- head of the Rewan Women's Center in Sulaimaniyah, one of Kurdistan's main cities -- said that the attitude toward honor killings could be changing in part because of an increased Western influence in the region. "Western culture is growing here and is in contradiction with the old tradition that honor is something sacred," she said. Some advocates added that more education about the custom, as well as law enforcement, is needed.
According to officials who attended the meeting with Pakistani officials, there are several hundred honor killings and related suicides annually in Iraqi Kurdistan, but reliable statistics are not available because of ineffective law enforcement and a lack of cooperation among tribal communities. The number of women who committed suicide by setting themselves on fire increased from 36 in 2005 to 133 in 2006, and the number of women murdered increased from four to 17 in the same time period, according to a report by Kurdistan's Human Rights Ministry. The report did not specifically mention honor killings (Torchia, AP/Miami Herald, 10/7).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the Kaiser Daily Reports online, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyrepo