They kill them and claim it was suicide; Iraqi women victims again

Sunday 24 July 202211:49 am
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"في العراق يقتلوننا ثم يسجلوننا منتحرات"... شهادات توثّق كيف يقتل الزوج زوجته و"يُكمل حياته"

Marwa Ali Fleih Abu Saiba’, from the Najaf Governorate, 19 years old, white, “has a thin build, and severe bruises on the neck, chest, and left hand. The cause of death was suffocation by hanging. She died on April 20, 2022,” according to the forensic report.

On the night Marwa died, she had called her mother to ask her for some money to pay for school, for she was still in high school. Ali Abu Saiba’, the victim’s father, tells Raseef22, “When I got home, I heard my wife’s voice calling me that my daughter wanted to talk to me. The first thing she did was joke with me, saying: ‘Baba Baba 300,000 right now’ (a way that Iraqis joke by asking for money through greeting).”

The father’s work was somewhat on hold. He asked her to give him a few days to secure the money. Marwa replied that she has exams and she has to pay. This is where the mother intervened. She took the phone and asked to speak with her daughter's husband, Mohammad. The father Ali recounts, “My wife asked him to loan Marwa the money and they would pay it back to him in a few days, but he just ended the call. This made my wife very anxious, and at five in the morning Marwa sent a voice message telling her mother that she is going to read the Qur’an and then go to sleep.”

“At eight in the morning, Marwa’s father-in-law called me to tell me that my daughter had committed suicide. She had hung herself. We went to my daughter’s house, where she was living with her husband’s family, and we found my daughter hanging from the chandelier in her bedroom. It was an indescribable moment. My wife broke down as I tried to keep it together for her, and soon I began to have doubts and suspicions,” says the father.

He adds, “They refused to call the police. Her father-in-law approached me to tell me that we would be disgraced because she committed suicide, and that we should put an end to this matter and drop it instead of going into the troubling details and problems that might befall us. I refused to listen to him, because my daughter did not commit suicide.”

The father called his brother and asked him to inform the police. During this time, he was watching the house and its people. He would look at his daughter’s husband, and would not find him affected in any way over the death of his wife. He says, “I saw nail marks on his neck and shoulder. He greeted us when we got home by saying, ‘You see, she committed suicide, it wasn’t me who killed her.’ My daughter fought back, and her husband strangled her, and the nail marks were the result of her resistance. I also saw nail marks on the perpetrator’s back.”

Marwa was being subjected to constant violence. She told her family more than once about her husband’s immorality, corrupt manners, his horrible treatment of her, and the violence she is subjected to. She had been barely married for five months, so her family chose to stay silent, fearing what society would think in case they wanted to divorce her from him.

The father says, “The law did not do us justice. They had paid bribes so that the incident would not be investigated. For the past two months to this day, her husband has not been summoned for investigation and to take down his testimony. Even the forensic medical examiner did not do my daughter any justice from the fear of the militias and the threats.”

Following appeals from civil society organizations and reaching out to activists and women’s rights defenders, the case began moving forward. The body was exhumed from its grave, and transported to the capital, but until now no decision has been issued. The father reveals that “there is increasing clan pressure and even financial offers that have so far amounted to one hundred thousand dollars in order to silence me.”

Wedian... another victim

Wedian Ismail Abbas, a 27 year-old young woman from Baghdad governorate, died from gunfire, as what was written in the autopsy forensic report, but Wedian is someone who is attached to life and living. She is a university graduate and would never leave her two children as she is very attached to them. She is also very religious and has never even once considered suicide, her sister Sama tells Raseef22.

Marwa suffered from constant violence. They told her parents she killed herself. Her husband had greeted them saying “She committed suicide, I didn't kill her”. They tried to silence her father, offering him $100,000. To this day the judiciary hasn’t acted

The victim called her sister on the day of the incident. They joked around and agreed to go out the next day to watch a movie with the kids. The victim’s sister, and her closest confidant, talks about the Wedian who loves life and cannot under any circumstances commit suicide, no matter how tough things get. “She would never commit suicide,” she says and bursts into tears. She stays silent for a while, then goes on to say, “We received a call at 12 o’clock midnight from the relatives of my slain sister’s husband to inform us that my sister had committed suicide. With all the rage I was feeling at that time, I called them back and asked them: ‘How did she commit suicide? ‘They bluntly answered so coldly and callously that her husband left the house and then came back to find she had killed herself.”

Sama goes quiet, and Ismail, the victim’s father, continues, “They asked us to come collect her body. I went to the forensic medical examiner, and my daughter was handed over, and when I went to the police station, they told me that the gun had no fingerprints at all and that the bullet that exited it had settled on the high ceiling of the room, and that the crime scene was so clean that the police did not even find any traces of blood.”

The father then goes quiet, with signs of anger and sadness visible on his face. Sama says, “The station refused to provide us with any papers related to the case, and the children were hidden away from us. After the burial ceremony was done, I called my sister’s phone, and her five-year-old daughter answered me, saying: ‘Auntie, they killed my mom.’ After that, the phone was turned off and we could not know anything about the children. No (legal) action was taken against her husband, and no investigation or inquiry was opened into the incident.”

Go ahead and burn yourself

Malak Haidar al-Zubaidi, a young woman in her twenties from the Najaf governorate, married a young man that she deeply loved after they were in a relationship that lasted for a while, despite her parents rejecting him due to the fact that the young man’s family is very strict. Malak insisted on getting married, defending her lover and deciding to marry him, according to her sister Sarah.

After getting married, Malak was prevented from using the phone, as well as from visiting her family and relatives. Sarah tells Raseef22, “We did not know anything about her life other than every few weeks, she would call my mother from her husband’s phone while he stood next to her, telling us that she was in good health.” Malak’s mother was constantly worried about her daughter, and when she would bring the issue up with anyone around her, they would attack her and accuse her of wanting to destroy her daughter’s marriage and family.

Malak endured eight months without being allowed to visit her immediate family. One day, she threatened her husband that she would set herself on fire, and all he did was encourage her to do so. She poured gasoline on herself, and her husband mocked her and then gave her a lighter, saying, “Go ahead and burn yourself,” so Malak saw no choice but to set herself on fire.

Malak’s mother and her sister Sarah only heard the details of what happened to her in the hospital. The victim also told them that her husband’s family took a very long time to get her to the hospital. They were bargaining with her that they were only willing to take her to the hospital if she tells anyone who asked her that she had been burned while working at home.

Malak remained in the hospital for several days, but died from the severe burns on her body on April 18, 2020. As for her husband, he is currently living a normal life, and no charges have been brought against him, not even as an instigator, and he has traveled outside Iraq. Sarah continues, “I was threatened that if I opened the case file, or spoke out, I would be eliminated. They told me: ‘We are the children of a military colonel, no one can contend with us or sue us’.”

Burned to death

Tayyibah Mohammad al-Rkabi, a young lady in her twenties from Baghdad, used to go to work in order to earn her daily bread, make a living, pay the rent, and secure the necessities of life. Her husband is unemployed, and she is trying as much as she can, both physically and psychologically, to do what she can to secure their living.

Tayyibah’s mother tells Raseef22 that one day an argument broke out between her daughter and her husband, like the many arguments that happen between them on a regular basis because she is always urging him to find a job to help support her with their household expenses. She says, “I tried to calm my daughter, and only a few hours had gone by when her husband called me to tell me in a sharp tone: ‘You have ten minutes, if you do not come take your daughter, I will kill her’.”

The husband kept screaming and threatening on the phone. Tayyibah’s mother hurried to her daughter’s house. On the way, the phone rings and she is told that her daughter is in the hospital because she set had herself on fire. The grieving mother recounts, “My daughter could not speak because of the severe burns she had sustained. I went and filed a complaint against her husband, and the judge told me that he did not want to wrong the husband and just put him in prison. He did not even bother to open an investigation into what happened. This is how my daughter died as if nothing had ever happened.”

Only days later, the twenty-something young woman died on February 19, 2022, from severe burns covering 80% of her body. It seems that justice is the very last thing that can be realized for women in this unjust country. Tayyibah’s mother drowns in silence for a few minutes, then says in an angry tone: “The husband is free while the law remains shackled down.”

No monitoring

Tamara Amer, the founder and director of Iraqi Women’s Rights organization, tells Raseef22, “We monitor many cases told by the victims’ sisters, relatives, or a close friend about girls who were killed, burned, or hanged, and then were registered as a suicide in the judiciary”. She adds, “In some cases, the perpetrator’s family have the financial means to falsify the facts by paying money and using legal tricks and loopholes in order to cover up the crime and have it proven as a suicide.”

Wedian was killed by a gunshot. They called her family and told them she committed suicide. The police told the father the gun had no fingerprints, the bullet had settled in the ceiling, and the crime scene was clean of blood; They didn’t open an investigation

She points out that “there is no clear monitoring or supervision over this matter due to the power of the clan over the individual. Women are killed in cold blood, whereas one of the major causes for these killings is the culture of violence and the disciplinary penal code in our society, which gives the man the right to be violent and control the woman’s life completely. We suffer from high rates of underage marriage in our society, and they constitute a major portion of the victims of these premeditated suicides.”

Official authorities

The Iraqi Ministry of Planning released a statistic on its official website about women exposed to violence. The report stated that 29 percent of women in the country were subjected to violence in its various forms, in addition to recording a high rate of illiteracy among the female population, reaching up to 20 percent. This came during a conference held in Baghdad during which the results of the Integrated Survey of the Economic, Social, and Health Status of Women in Iraq between 2011 and 2021 were announced.

The Ministry of Planning conducted the survey with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and it revealed that 29 percent of Iraqi women are subjected to all forms of violence, and that economic violence (the husband controlling the wife’s access to economic resources) is the most common type of violence that the husband practices against his wife, at 22 percent, followed by verbal violence at 12 percent. As for other types, they logged significantly lesser percentages, such as physical violence at 3.6 percent, and sexual violence at 1.8 percent. The survey also indicated that 25.5 of women were married before they reached the age of eighteen, and 10.5 percent of them were married before they reached the age of 15.

The judiciary is submissive

Raseef22 obtained the testimony of an associate from within the Iraqi courts, confirming that the judiciary is subject to regionalism, and judges in the areas controlled by clans and militias take down the testimony of the witness without conducting any investigations, and bribery rules those who control these cases.”

For his part, Judge Rahim al-Ugaili informs Raseef22, “There are legal loopholes for evading punishment. Iraqi law criminalizes anyone who incites or assists suicide by any means, and punishes them with imprisonment from five to seven years under Article 408 of Penal Code No. 111 of 1969.”

He adds, “The application of the article requires the death of the suicide in order for the instigator or the one who assisted the suicide to be considered a criminal. If a person tries to commit suicide at the instigation or assistance of another and does not die, the assistant or the instigator is not considered a criminal because Iraqi law does not view attempting suicide as a crime and because it has suspended the criminalization of incitement and assistance to suicide and has linked it to suicide, i.e. to death, which has formed a legal loophole through which whoever aided or abetted suicide can escape punishment.”

Iraqi political analyst Yahya al-Kubaisi said in a statement that, “The Iraqi judiciary is unfair and unindependent, and we have real problems with it. The United Nations has published in its reports that a fair judicial court cannot be found in Iraq (...), and the judge refuses to even hear the accused, and refuses to investigate many cases, and I am certain that the Iraqi judiciary, since its inception, has been subject to and is under the control of power relations.”

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