When violence enters daily life without any warning, it raises incomprehension and injects fear into people’s heart. This is what has just happened in Iraq. The recent targeted assassinations of high-profile Iraqi women Tara Fares, Suaad al-Ali, Rasha al-Hassan, and Rafif al-Yasiri, have shocked the world. The four killings show a clear targeting pattern, which the daily newspaper The Guardian defines as a “modern witch-hunt” against women.
However, what is more concerning is the dismissive tendency of framing these killings as honour killings or domestic violence cases before investigations are conducted and concluded. In the case of activist Suad Al-Ali, for example, a police representative has already allegedly reported that the victim’s ex-husband was behind the assassination, even though police investigations have yet to be concluded.
In the second half of August, two of the most prominent cosmetic experts in Baghdad, Rafif Yasiri and Rasha al-Hassen, died under mysterious circumstances. On 26 September, street surveillance cameras in the city of Basra recorded the assassination of woman activist Su’ad al-All. Al-All was the president of Al-Wed for Human Rights, among the leaders of the social protests organised in the city of Basra in July 2018 opposing widespread corruption, poor infrastructure and living conditions and contaminated water. Only two days later, on 28 September, model and former Miss Iraq contestant, Tara Fares, was killed by three bullets while driving in the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Dismissing and normalising gender-based violence and reducing it to a domestic issue denies the active role of these women in their society and increases the sense of impunity for criminal behaviours and feeds in the hundreds of reports of inefficiency of prosecutors and judges of prosecuting violence against women.
Since the killings took place, other outspoken Iraqi women have received death threats over the phone and on social media, stating “It’s your turn!” These threats have prompted them to flee, cease all their activities, and close their personal social media accounts.
Day after day, the security of Iraqi women activists and peacemakers is in jeopardy.
Enough is Enough
The strength of the shock has lead to an initiative to denounce violence against women in Iraq. On 25 October 2018, women human rights defenders from different backgrounds and countries participated in a vigil in solidarity with the Iraqi women. They gathered in front of the UN headquarters in New York to say “Enough is Enough.”
It was not by coincidence that the vigil took place on this specific day. It was the 18th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 dedicated to Women, Peace and Security Agenda. An effective way to remind their commitments to representatives of Member States and UN staff on their way into the UN headquarters to participate to the Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security.
The 25th of every month also marks the celebration of “Orange Day”, a day proclaimed by the UN Secretary-General to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls. For this reason, at the vigil, women carried orange flowers to link the issue of violence against women and girls and the situation of women in Iraq.
During the vigil, participants held one minute of silence in front of an orange crest honouring the Iraqi women.
After the one minute of silence, statements were read out by the Iraqi Women’s Network and the High Council for Women’s Affairs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. They called to end violence against women, and demanded a transparent investigation into the recent killings. They also demanded that the will perpetrators be brought to justice. Read the entire statement in English and Arabic. female wrestling