On Sunday, January 5, scores of Iraqis demonstrated in front of the country’s Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad, to demand a strict law to deal with domestic violence and so-called “honor killings” in the country. The protests were called following the killing of YouTuber Tiba al-Ali (22) by her father in Iraq’s southern province of Diwaniya on January 31. The killing reportedly occurred over a dispute over her decision to live in Turkey, Iraq’s Interior Ministry spokesperson Saad Maan claimed in a series of tweets on February 3.
After the news of her murder became public, mobilization for Sunday’s demonstration in Baghdad was organized over social media. The protesters, mostly women, carried posters and banners demanding laws against gender-based violence.
Ali had been living in Turkey with her fiancé since 2017, and used to make YouTube videos about her daily life. She had also claimed to have been sexually assaulted by her brother in 2017.
There is currently no law against domestic violence in Iraq, despite women’s groups having demanded it for a long time. Earlier attempts to enact such a law failed due to the strong conservative beliefs held by a majority of the legislators in the country, and their concerns about their possible impact of such laws on the ‘social fabric’ of the country.
Article 41 of the Iraqi penal code allows husbands to “discipline” their wives. Article 409 can be used to mitigate punishments (up to three years) in cases of crimes of violence committed against family members and distinguishes such crimes from murder, according to a Rudaw report.
Though it is difficult to obtain official figures about such crimes in the country, according to some official statistics, one of every five Iraqi women is subjected to violence by relatives. Women have been the primary victims of domestic violence
Ala Talabani, a senior legislator in the Iraqi parliament, claimed in a tweet that “women in our societies are hostage to backward customs due to the absence of legal deterrence and government measures.” She demanded immediate enactment of a domestic violence law.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) also asked the Iraqi government to amend articles 41 and 409 of its penal code and enact a strong law criminalizing “gender-based violence.” It said that “so-called honor killing and other forms of gender-based violence violate human rights and cannot be tolerated.”