Gjesteskribent

Den svenske filmen «Når mørkret faller» er en rystende film om æresdrap i Sverige. En familie fra Midtøsten vet å passe på jentene. Dvs. det er ikke et dekkende begrep. Når en jente viser tegn til individualitet, går alarmen: Da må hun tøyles, temmes som et dyr. Men jenta i filmen lar seg ikke kue. Hun rømmer.

Så skjer det som er skjer så altfor ofte: Hun får hjemlengsel, spesielt etter lillesøsteren. Lillesøsteren kobler inn moren, som lover at ingenting skal skje med henne om hun kommer hjem.

Familien har mange slektninger i Tyskland. Dit drar de på besøk. Midt på natten blir storesøster dratt ut av hotellet. Hun blir jaget ut mot en tett trafikert hovedvei. En hel gjeng av menn forfølger henne. Hun kommer seg over. På den andre siden står en annen gjeng og jager henne tilbake. Jenta er skrekkslagen. Hun forstår at hensikten er å jage henne i døden. Det skal se ut som en trafikkulykke. Det er bare et spørsmål om tid.

Lillesøsteren er knust. Hun forstår at noe forferdelig har skjedd. Drapet på datteren er en stor belastning også for faren, men han har måttet gjøre det for å redde familiens ære.

Fordi dødsfallet skjer i utlandet, blir det ikke etterforsket av svensk politi. Et eksempel på rettsløshet midt i det grensesprengende Schengen-området. Noen vet å dra nytte av den manglende kontrollen.

Familien er ikke muslimsk, slik man skulle tro, men kristen. Om dette ble gjort for å være politisk korrekt eller for å lage en vri på vante forestillinger, vites ikke. Det finnes mange sekter i Midtøsten som fører en hard justis.

Det rammet i fjor vinter den 17 år gamle jenta Du’aa Aswad. Du’aa tilhører Yazidi-sekten, en merkelig sekt som tror at verden opprettholdes av syv engler. Hun ble forelsket i en 19 år gammel sunni, Muhammad Ummayad. Oppstandelsen var stor på begge sider: Dette var en helt uakseptabel allianse. Forholdet skal ikke ha vært fullbyrdet, men det spilte ingen rolle. Du’aa måtte dø. En hel gjeng kastet stein på henne til hun døde. Noen filmet det med mobilkamera og la drapet ut på nettet. En av dem som ble sjokkert var Shabana Rehman, som skrev om det i Aftenposten: De ansvarlige må straffes, noe sånt må aldri få skje igjen, skrev Shabana opprørt.

Det skjer igjen, skriver The Times’ Hala Jaber fra Irbil. Oppmerksomheten har ikke stanset æresdrapene. Det er tvertimot blitt flere av dem:

According to the human rights ministry in northern Iraq, 598 women have been burnt, beaten, shot, strangled, thrown from tall buildings, force-fed with lethal drugs, crushed by vehicles, drowned, decapitated or made to kill themselves so far this year, exceeding the 553 recorded for the whole of 2006.

Noen mener at man ikke skal skrike opp om slike fenomener. De har en innebygd motstand mot å gi dem for mye oppmerksomhet. Men når man går inn i enkeltskjebnene, forstummer slike hensyn: Dette er så alvorlige menneskerettsbrudd at de må frem i lyset. Yazidi-sekten har sikkert fascinerende trekk, men æresdrap er ikke blant dem.

Kurderne har måttet gjennomgå mye, men det er ikke noe som forsvarer deres drap på egne døtre.

Hala Jabers reportasje er vanskelig å glemme:

«As the sun went down and the sandstone tombs cast long shadows over the village cemetery, Badi’aa Aswad threw herself on the mud grave of her 17-year-old daughter, Du’aa, and howled.

«Come to Mama, Du’aa,» she cried, caressing the plain concrete headstone. «The last thing you told me was that you were hungry. Come home. Let me cook, and feed you.»

Disturbed by the sobbing, a passer-by offered water in the hope of soothing her. But Aswad screamed that she could not drink a drop.

«Du’aa is thirsty,» she shrieked, directing the stranger to pour the contents of her water bottle over the dusty grave instead. «Yes, drink my baby, drink my honourable girl, drink some water, light of my eyes.»

It is seven months since Du’aa was stoned to death by a mob in the Kurdish hillside village of Basshiqa, northern Iraq, after being found with her 19-year-old boyfriend, Muhannad Ummayad, in an olive grove.

They were not lovers, though some in the crowd suspected they were. But Du’aa was a member of the Yazidi sect, which teaches that the Earth is in the care of seven angels. Yazidis are regarded as devil-worshippers by many Muslims and Muhannad is a Sunni Muslim.

Their respective communities were outraged by their determination to marry and while Muhannad was locked up in prison, Du’aa found herself dragged to the marketplace for an honour killing.

Last week, Du’aa’s family spoke for the first time about the events that led to the stoning, which has been widely condemned after mobile phone clips were posted on the internet.

The footage was said to have prompted a revenge massacre of 23 Sunnis in nearby Mosul. But far from curbing honour killings, Du’aa’s death has been linked with a sharp increase in them.

According to the human rights ministry in northern Iraq, 598 women have been burnt, beaten, shot, strangled, thrown from tall buildings, force-fed with lethal drugs, crushed by vehicles, drowned, decapitated or made to kill themselves so far this year, exceeding the 553 recorded for the whole of 2006.

It was around 7pm on April 5 when Du’aa told her family that she was taking out the rubbish, then disappeared. The following morning an anonymous caller said she was with a Muslim man.

The caller threatened to kill her in order to «wash away her shame», so her father Khalil, a 49-year-old civil defence official, and brother Nebraas went to the police. Within hours, the couple were discovered among the olives.

In an effort to cool tensions, Du’aa was taken to the home of Sheikh Sulaiman Sulaiman, the senior Yazidi figure in the village. But her own relatives were bitterly divided over whether she should live or die.

A 65-year-old uncle, Salim, a science teacher, backed the head of their tribe, Omar Hamko, 73, in demanding that she be killed to «cleanse the family honour».

Her father would not countenance it. He proposed that she be married to a cousin and moved to Syria.

«She has committed a wrong for which she will be punished but not through death,» he declared. «I refuse to have my daughter killed.»

When the uncle insisted that he would decide Du’aa’s fate as the elder sibling and head of the local Communists, her father ordered him out of the house.

Her mother, meanwhile, had gone to see her for what would prove a poignant last meeting.

«I promise you I am still a virgin,» Du’aa said – the autopsy would confirm this – «and I did nothing wrong, Mama.»

Du’aa’s final words to her, recalled at the graveside, were: «I’m hungry, Mama.»

The next day, April 7, Hamko, the tribal leader, telephoned her Uncle Salim, saying there was a plot to smuggle her out of town.

Salim sent sons, nephews and party supporters to surround the home of the sheikh, firing shots into the air. «They came with guns and stones, shouting and screaming in anger,» the sheikh said last week.

Looking back on the terrible scenes that followed, he lamented the manner of Du’aa’s killing, but not her death.

«Honour is a big thing here and each one deals with it differently,» the sheikh said. «It was down to her family to cleanse her shame. Maybe kill her with one bullet, electrocution, any manner but not through this awful stoning.

«There is no father who does not love his daughter. When such a father kills his daughter to wash away their family shame, it breaks his heart to do so. But fathers are obliged to do this, otherwise they will be ostracised.»

The sheikh is blamed by Du’aa’s mother for what happened next. «He sent her out as a defenceless young girl,» she alleged. The mobile phone clips show her being taken straight from the sheikh’s house to the marketplace in a headlock, wailing and screaming as armed police watched in silence.

In the marketplace, she came under a hail of stones and her face and clothes were soon covered in blood. Among those hurling the stones were several male cousins from her father’s side of the family and one – Araas – from her mother’s.

It was Araas who approached as she tried to struggle to her feet and smashed a large piece of concrete over her head to finish her off. He told police he had done it as «an act of mercy to put her out of her misery».

While Araas is still being held, Uncle Salim and the tribal leader, Hamko, are on the run. Du’aa’s father has named 20 other men as her killers. Nobody told her parents she was dead until the following day. Her two brothers then dug her body out of a rubbish pit for burial in the cemetery, where the grave has been attacked.

A grenade lobbed into the garden of the family’s home last month shattered windows and left them in no doubt that the community wants them to leave.

One of the most shocking things about Du’aa’s death, however, is that although stoning is rare, honour killing is rampant, particularly in Kurdish areas of Iraq and Iran. Kurdish women are killed almost every day for «dishonouring» their families.

A law introduced in northern Iraq in 2002 allowed such killers to be convicted of murder – in theory exposing them to the death sentence. In practice, it has made little difference.

Dalia Dzay, head of research studies at the human rights ministry, said the perpetrators were simply finding new ways of achieving the same grisly end, for instance by forcing women to set fire to themselves so that their deaths looked like accidents with cooking fuel.

Then there is a whole new class of victims to consider – those who have fled the threat of honour killings and are alone, terrified and destitute.

In a shelter at a secret location near the town of Suleimaniya, 12 women are in hiding together for protection. One pretty girl with wide brown eyes who identified herself only as «H», described how she had fallen in love with a young man from her district when she was 18 and he was 25.

Her father ordered her to marry an older business associate and was so enraged when she refused that he sent her to live with her grandmother. There, she learnt that her boyfriend had been shot dead by her father and brother, who were bragging that she would be next.

Another woman there, «J», was forced to marry a much older man when she was 16 but bumped into a former sweetheart while shopping. Relatives who saw them chatting assumed the worst and drove the two of them to a remote area. J’s nose was cut off with a knife; her ex-boyfriend lost an ear.

This weekend, The Sunday Times was granted access to a prison holding men who have carried out honour killings. None expressed remorse.

One, Rustum Mohamed Ali, 32, has been unable to provide for his wife and four children aged 7 to 12 since he was jailed two years ago for killing his pregnant, unmarried niece and her lover.

First he confronted the lover in the garden of his home. «I begged him, in the name of God and morality, to marry her in order to protect her honour and the family’s,» he said.

When the man refused, Ali shot him with a Kalashnikov. He then went indoors, where he claims his niece said: «I deserve to be killed.» He shot her with the same weapon. » No man can stand for his family’s honour to be defiled,» he said.

The mentality seems as alien as ever to Du’aa’s mother in her grief. «May they all burn in hell,» she said last week, stroking the end of the grave as if washing her daughter’s feet. «You were a good girl, you were honour itself and I miss you, so please come to me in my dreams, I beg you.»


‘Honour’ killings grow as girl, 17, stoned to death