Dozens of Iraqi protesters gathered Sunday to decry the so-called “honor killing” of a 22-year-old YouTube star who was allegedly strangled by her father, adding fuel to calls for legal reforms protecting women.
Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan on Friday announced that Tiba Ali was killed Jan. 31 in the central city of Diwaniyah by her father, who then turned himself in to the police. Reports say the father strangled Ali at night while she was asleep.
The so-called “honor killing” was met with condemnation from women’s rights groups and residents, who sounded the alarm on violence against women in Iraq and the need to reform legislation to impose harsher punishments on perpetrators.
The protesters held banners condemning the killing and demanding legislative reforms. “There is no honor in the crime of killing women,” one placard read.
“Anyone who wants to get rid of a woman accuses her of disgracing her dignity and kills her,” protester Israa al-Salman told The Associated Press, who also wanted Ali’s father executed.
Some held placards saying “Stop killing women” and “Tiba’s killer must be held to account.”
Another demonstrator, Lina Ali, said: “We will keep mobilizing because of rising domestic violence and killings of women.”
Article 41 of the country’s penal code allows husbands to “discipline” their wives, which includes beatings. Meanwhile, Article 409 reduces murder sentences for men who kill or permanently impair their wives or female relatives because of adultery to up to three years in prison.
Rosa al-Hamid, an activist with civil society group the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq urged the authorities to pass a long-stalled draft law against domestic violence that has been lingering in Iraqi Parliament since 2019.
“Tiba was killed by her father under tribal justifications that are unacceptable,” she told the AP.
Amnesty International Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Aya Majzoub said in a press statement said that violence against women and girls in Iraq will continue until “Iraqi authorities adopt robust legislation to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.”
Diwaniyah’s city police department and hospital administration declined to comment to the AP about Ali’s death.
Tiba Ali had been living in Istanbul, Turkey, and had a YouTube channel with over 20,000 subscribers documenting life in the Turkish city alongside her Syrian-born boyfriend, a real estate investor. In her first YouTube video in November 2021, Ali said she moved to Turkey to further her education, but chose to stay because she enjoyed life there.
Her father reportedly did not agree with the move, nor her plans to marry her partner. Maan said that Ali and her father had a heated dispute during a visit to Iraq, and that the day before her murder, the local community police had intervened to help them reach a settlement.
Iraqi NGO Support Her Organization for Women’s Rights shared voice recordings that Ali reportedly sent to friends the night before she was killed. In the recording, she confronts her mother and father about not returning to Iraq after her brother sexually assaulted her. The audio ends with her father yelling and hitting her as she screams in pain. The AP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recording.
On the sidelines of Sunday’s demonstration, human rights activist Hanaa Edwar was received by a magistrate from the Supreme Judicial Council to whom she presented the protesters’ grievances.
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The United Nations mission in Iraq in a statement on Sunday condemned Ali’s “abhorrent killing” and called on the Baghdad government to enact “a law that explicitly criminalizes gender-based violence”.
AFP contributed to this report.