By lex, on May 22nd, 2007
The news video showed the face of a pretty girl, dark haired, slender. Somebody’s cherished daughter – you can almost see the life in her eyes, the hope in her future. And then there are the grainy cell phone images, the guttural mutter of an enraged mob. A face beaten beyond recognition, a pool of blood. A sudden stillness.
Duua Khalil Aswad was her name, 17 years old forever.
A Yazidi from the Kurdish-majority north of Iraq. Fell in love with a local Sunni boy. Her parents grew alarmed because the Yazidi, as it turns out, are a clannish sect. Insular. They moved her out of her own house and into hiding. For her own protection.
Reports say that her father’s brother – her own uncle – found out where she was hiding. Stripped her half-naked. Dragged her out of the house in a headlock, past local security forces, into a public square where a throng of men shouted at her, kicked her and stoned her to death with masonry blocks. Somebody covered up her legs part way through.
They had her modesty to consider.
It took about 30 minutes according to news reports. It’s hard to kill a teenaged girl using only stones.
This was an act of barbarism, a ghastly crime, in consequence of which, gunmen – presumably from the Sunni Arab minority – dragged 23 almost certainly unrelated Yazidi workmen from a bus and murdered them execution style.
Our imaginations rebel against these things. We recoil; ask ourselves “Who are these people?” We try to look away.
We didn’t used to have to ask these kinds of questions. They were things that happened “over there,” in the world’s dark corners, in places we could pretend did not exist because we didn’t have to look at them. In places that didn’t make the tourist guidebooks. But now the planet has gotten smaller, now the world comes to us, it pushes in. For better and for worse.
In graphic demonstration of the intersection of stone age mores and modern technology, the surrounding men who didn’t throw stones – and didn’t stop the others from doing so – instead video recorded the event on their cell phones, to put up on the internet.
Cell phones, computers and networks are devices that a “shame and honor” culture – a culture that has relegated half of its own human capital to the status of chattel, of repositories for male honor, that has created out of their own children the vessels of familial shame – could never themselves have created. But they can still use them.
Let no one tell you that other cultures cannot be judged. Let no one tell you that none of them are any better or any worse than any others. That is a foul lie, and demonstrably untrue. Duua Khalil Aswad is only the latest mute reminder. That hole in the New York City skyline is another.
We have sold to people in the darkest corners of the world our technology – the advances we laboriously crafted from a culture that values faith and tradition, but also values reason, industry and science. That values people. We taught them how to use that technology and they have in turn used it to thrust their way into our consciousness.
It’s time for us to push right back, far past time in fact. It’s time to shed the light of moral disapprobation upon barbarism. It’s time to judge them and if need be shame them. It is time for us to say, “Not one more. Not one more girl or woman should die for any man’s honor.” It is time to say that any man who murders one of his own family members for the sake of honor never had any to begin with.
Not one more.
“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.” General Sir Charles James Napier, GCB