Iraq: Yazidi workers massacred in Mosul

Unknown gunmen shot dead 23 textile factory workers from the ancient Yazidi culture in an apparent revenge killing in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul April 22. Authorities said the gunmen erected a roadblock, forced the workers out of a minibus, lined them against a wall and shot them execution-style in the eastern al-Nour district of Mosul. Three survived, seriously wounded. Iraqi Brigadier-General Mohammed al-Waggaa said the killings seemed to be in retaliation for an incident in which a Yazidi woman was stoned to death several weeks ago for converting to Islam.

One source told Reuters the woman had fallen in love with a Muslim man and run away with him a few months ago. Police detained the couple, kept the man in jail and freed the woman after receiving assurances from her family she would not be harmed. According to the source, Yazidi community leaders decided they had to "cleanse the shame", and stoned the woman to death. One witness said he saw a mobile phone video of the stoning, showing a group of men beating, kicking and hitting a woman with large blocks of cement.

Yazidis, followers of a pre-Islamic indigenous faith, have often faced discrimination in Iraq (and been the target of calumnies). The angel they venerate as ruler of the Earth is often identified as the fallen angel Satan in biblical terminology. They are of course deemed heretical by orthodox Islam. (Reuters, April 22)

"It is unacceptable because Yazidis, in addition to being a minority in Iraq, have been discriminated against for their beliefs and are forced to isolate themselves to stay alive," Hebert Yegorova, a spokesman for Yazidi Peace Association, told the UN news agency IRIN.

"The attack against the sect was clear after the gunmen asked Christians to leave the bus in which the Yazidi workers were, shooting to death only people from our community," he added.

The victims were all from the small town of Bashika, outside Mosul. Hundreds of Christians and Yazidis have taken refuge in the area, fleeing from religious violence in other parts of Iraq.

According to the Yazidi Peace Association, 204 Yazidis have been killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. There are about 600,000 Yazidis remaining in Iraq, mostly in the towns of Bashika and Sinjar, under the control of the Kurdistan regional government. (IRIN, April 23)

After the killings, hundreds of Yazidis took to the streets of Bashika. AP reports shops were shuttered and many Muslim residents closed themselves in their homes, fearing reprisal attacks. Police set up additional checkpoints across the city. (AP, April 23)

See our last posts on Iraq, Kurdistan and the Yazidis.

  1. International Campaign against killings of women in Kurdistan
    A petition:

    To: Kurdistan Regional Government

    International Campaign against killings and stoning of women in Kurdistan

    Condemn the brutal stoning to death of Doa—a young girl whose only crime was to fall in love

    Doa was stoned to death in the centre of the town of Bashiqa in front of hundreds of people and the authorities did not prevent this crime from happening. On the contrary, they were present and paving the way for this horrific crime to be carried out.

    Doa was a 17 year old girl from a family of Yazidi faith; she was snatched from her house by some Yazidi men who discovered that she was in love with a Muslim Arab man and had visited him. They stoned her to death in public on 7th April 2007 in the town of Bashiqa.

    It is known that women in Kurdistan and Iraq are oppressed. The few rights they do have are very limited and in most cases they are treated as sub-humans.

    Killings, suicide, and violence against women are an every day occurrence in this region. Although a crime of this nature is very new to Kurdistan, this is an indication that such crimes against women are now tolerated. Doa’s killers are still free.

    The government’s failure to protect women, and enforce laws against criminals, has created a situation where thousands of women become victims of so called “honour killings”. Violence has risen as result of patriarchal and religious traditions.

    We strongly condemn this barbaric act, and call upon all human rights and women’s rights organisations, political parties, and activists in Kurdistan and globally to condemn this crime.

    In the 21st century, for such crimes to be carried out in broad daylight is not only a shame on society as whole, but most of all, it is a shame on a government that is unable to protect women from such inhumane and backward practices. The stoning of Doa sets a dangerous precedent for more women to become victims of stoning.

    We hold the Kurdistan Regional Government responsible for the lives and protection of women in this region, and we believe that the brutalisation and victimisation of women must come to an end.

    We the undersigned therefore demand:

    * That the Kurdistan Regional Government brings the killers to justice and punishes them.

    * The Kurdistan regional Government should set laws against terror, killings and oppression of women, and punish criminals.

    * To avoid this barbaric crime from becoming a norm and a practice in Kurdish society, the Kurdistan Regional Government should criminalise stoning to death.

    The initiators of this campaign are:

    Houzan Mahmoud: Representative abroad of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and campaign coordinator

    Raga Rauf: Writer and women’s rights activist and campaign coordinator

    Samera Mohammed: Editor of Rasan women’s newspaper in Kurdistan

    Yanar Mohammed: President Of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

    Aram Ali: Coordinator of the Kurdish website

    Baker Ahmad: Writer and poet

    Dler Colnadar: member of executive board of CHAK organisation

    Omar Faris: coordinator of a Kurdish website

    Dina Nammi: International Campaign against Honour Killings

    Amal Almas: (Iraqi Women’s League) Gothenburg -Sweden

    Federation of Workers councils and unions in Iraq/Kurdistan representative

    Chro Sabir: Director of Rasan women’s organisation in Kurdistan

    Hana Shwan: Journalist and women’s rights activist in Kurdistan

    Hamza Abd: The Iraqi Cultural House in Gothenburg-Sweden

    To join this campaign or to show your support pleases contact:

    Campaign Coordinators: Houzan Mahmoud and Rega Rauf Or


    The Undersigned

    See our last post on the status of women in “liberated iraq.”

  2. Yazidis face genocide?
    From the Turkish Daily News, April 24:

    Attacks on Yazidis have surged recently and almost all Yazidi families living outside the autonomous Kurdish region have fled the country, reported the Iraqi daily Azzaman. According to a statement issued by the League of Yazidi intellectuals, 192 Yazidis have been killed in the past four years since the U.S. troops invaded the country. This figure does not include the latest victims.

    “Most of the killings were perpetrated on religious grounds as fundamentalist and Islamist groups see [Yazidis] as infidels who either have to convert or be killed,” reported the daily.


    There are nearly half a million Yazidis in Iraq and most of them live in two major localities – in Shaikhan, north of Mosul and Sinjar, to the west.

  3. Another account from Issam Shukri
    IRAQ: Public stoning of teenage girl

    In Bashika, Mosul, hundreds of men beat and stoned a 17 year old woman named Du’a Khalil Aswad to death, in a gruesome example of collective ‘honour killing’. The woman, a member of the Yezidi religion, which is practised by Kurds in Northern Iraq ran away from her family to join an Arab Muslim man with whom she had fallen in love and had been meeting secretly, but who rejected her. Damned under the ‘honour’ code, for running away, for choosing outside her own community and for being ultimately rejected, Du’a had nowhere to go.

    She stayed with a local Yezidi tribal leader for five days until she was convinced to return to her village on the understanding that she had been ‘forgiven.’ She was abducted and brutally murdered in front of hundreds of men by her relatives — who stripped her body, beat and kicked her, and killed her by crushing her body with rocks and concrete blocks. These brutal and inhuman acts were filmed by the participants on their mobile phones and many of them have been circulating on the internet and from phone to phone. They show the participation of the police in this disgusting communal murder and the murderous excitement of the crowd as the girl’s uncle, brother and cousin commit the grisly murder.

    Islamist groups active in the area have sought to capitalise on this crime and are urging revenge attacks upon all Yezidis, claiming that she had converted to Islam and characterising the murder as a ‘martyrdom’ rather than an ‘honour’ killing. Women in th Middle East face patriarchal oppression and violence whether they are Muslim, Druze, Yezidi or Christian. ‘Honour’ killings are common amongst Kurds (the UN has recorded 40 honour killings in Kurdistan in 3 months in 2007) and public murders like this have been noted before: for example in the case of Semse Allak in the Kurdish region of Turkey. Islamists throughout Iraq seek to exploit the racial and religious divisions in the country; one mosque has declared a ‘fatwa’ against the Yezidi and 23 have been murdered. For this reason, prompt action to locate the relatives of the young woman and the police who failed to act is essential to restore peace and allow the Yezidi community to feel safe again.

    Mirza Dinnayi, co-ordinator of the German-based Yezidi Democratic Community was devastated by this crime. “All Yezidi assocations and leaders have clearly condemned this barbaric act,” he said. Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi authorities to investigate whether law enforcement officials were present but failed to intervene to prevent Du’a Khalil Aswad’s death by stoning, and to take urgent, concrete measures, including through legislative reforms, to protect those at risk of becoming victims of so-called “honour crimes.” Today in Arbil there was a huge demonstration against this murder and ‘honour’ killings in Kurdistan in general.

    Add your voice to those calling for change in Kurdistan and Iraq and for an end to the oppression of ‘honour’.

    Condemn the stoning of Du’a! Sign here.

    Demo in Arbil: pictures here

  4. Du’a Khalil Aswad: Public seminar in London
    From the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization (IKWRO):

    Public seminar in memory of Du’a Khalil Aswad , Kurdish teenager brutally stoned to death in front of hundreds of witnesses in Bashika, near Mosul.

    Du’a’s only “crime” was to fall in love with an Arab man not from her own “faith.”

    We invite you all to this public seminar to shed light on this barbaric crime and discuss the background to so called honour killings in Kurdistan. The campaign will outline its plan of mounting pressure on the Kurdish authorities to take responsible measures to protect women from killing and stoning!


    * Houzan Mahmoud: Representative Abroad of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and initiator of Campaign Against Killing and Stoning of Women in Kurdistan.

    * Heather Harvey: Amnesty International’s Women Against Violence project manager.

    * Diana Nammi: Director of Kurdish and Iranian Women’s Rights Organisation, and chair of International Campaign Against Honour Killings and initiator of Campaign Against Killing and Stoning of Women in Kurdistan.

    * Rega Rauf: Representative of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq in Sweden, writer and researcher in honour killings in Kurdistan.


    Friday 18th May 2007, 18.30-10.00pm

    The Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre
    17-25 New Inn Yard
    London, EC2A 3EA

    for more information or to book a place, please contact:

    * Houzan Mahmoud:
    Tel: 0795 6883001
    * Diana Nammi:
    Tel: 0786 2733511

  5. More threats
    From IraqSlogger, May 15:

    The Iraqiyun News Agency reports through eyewitness accounts that leaflets signed by the Mujahideen Army threatening members of the Yazidi sect were distributed in Mosul on Monday. The leaflets, some of which were posted inside governmental departments, demanded from Yazidis to convert to Islam or leave the northern city within three days.