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‘Strangled in sleep’: YouTuber Tiba al-Ali’s honour-killing by dad goes almost unpunished

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters

Tiba al-Ali, an Iraqi YouTube star was murdered by her father in an honour killing crime, when she visited Iraq from Istanbul in January, sparking huge outrage in the country.

In 2017, when she was 17 years old and had just relocated from her home in Iraq to Turkey, she established a YouTube channel where she discussed her freedom, her fiancé, makeup, and other topics. Tiba acquired tens of thousands of subscribers and seemed content.

She returned to Iraq in January to see her family, but her father murdered her there. Her father was only given a six-month prison term because the killing was not deemed to have been “pre-meditated.”

Tiba’s passing spurred demonstrations concerning Iraq’s laws pertaining to “honour killings” across the country, with the case illustrating how women are treated in a nation where traditional values are still overwhelmingly prevalent.

‘Strangled in her sleep’

Over 20,000 subscribers made up Tiba’s online fan base, which has grown after her passing.

She often shared videos and cherished the new way of life Turkey had given her.

Tiba said in her debut video from November 2021 that she had moved to advance her schooling but had stayed because she liked being there.

Her father, Tayyip Ali, reportedly disapproved of her plan to relocate there and marry her Syrian fiancé, with whom she shared an apartment in Istanbul.

When Tiba visited her home in Diwaniya in January, it’s thought that she became caught up in a family argument.

According to reports, Tayyip Ali choked her to death on January 31 while she slept.

A local official in the area where Tiba was slain claimed that her father received a brief prison term in April.

Following Tiba’s death, hundreds of women protested against laws pertaining to “honour killings” on the streets of Iraq.

According to a Home Office study, the Iraqi Penal Code accepts “honour” as a defence for violent crimes against family members.

According to the Code, “honour killings” are excused from penalty if they were provoked or the accused had “honourable motives.”

Tiba al-Ali was involved in an accident, according to Gen Saad Maan, spokesman for the Iraqi interior ministry. From a legal standpoint, it is a criminal accident, but from other viewpoints, it is an accident related to honour killings.

According to Gen Maan, Tiba and her father got into a furious dispute when she was in Iraq.

He said that police had tried to step in the day before her murder.

When asked about the response of authorities to the killing, Gen Maan said: “Security forces dealt with the case with the highest standards of professionalism and applied the law.

“They started a preliminary and judicial investigation, gathered all the evidence and referred the file to the judiciary to pass a sentence.”

‘Rooted in misogyny’

Concerned about the absence of protection against domestic abuse for women and girls under Iraqi legislation, Iraqi women and women’s rights advocates throughout the world expressed indignation over Tiba’s murder and the light sentence given to her father.

For instance, in Article 41 of Iraq’s penal code the “punishment of a wife by her husband” and “the disciplining by parents… of children under their authority within certain limits” are considered legal rights.

Article 409 meanwhile states: “Any person who surprises his wife in the act of adultery or finds his girlfriend in bed with her lover and kills them immediately or one of them, or assaults one of them so that he or she dies or is left permanently disabled, is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding three years.”

Female rights activist, Dr Leyla Hussein told the BBC: “These killings are often rooted in misogyny and a desire to control women’s bodies and behaviour.

“Using the term “honour killing” can be harmful to the victims and their families,” she said. “It reinforces the idea that they are somehow responsible for their own deaths, that they brought it upon themselves by doing something wrong or shameful.”

The UN has estimated that 5,000 women and girls across the world are murdered by family members each year in “honour killings”.

‘This must stop’

Iraqi security personnel stopped 20 activists from protesting in front of the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad five days after Tiba’s murder.

They held placards saying “Stop killing women” and “Stop [article] 409”, and chanted: “There is no honour in the crime of killing women.”

Ruaa Khalaf, an Iraqi activist and human rights defender, said: “Iraqi law greatly needs to be improved, amended and harmonised with international conventions.”

Khalaf said the sentence handed to Tiba’s father was “unfair”, and that she saw such cases as evidence of “provisions and legislations that violate women’s rights”.

Hanan Abdelkhaleq, an Iraqi advocate for women’s rights, said: “They need to find a solution. This must stop. Killing women has become too simple.

“Strangling, stabbing. It has become easy. We hope that the law will stop article 409, cancel it.”

Other female activists on social media also noted that Tiba’s killing was not an isolated incident and that many “honour killings” went unreported.

Stronger regulations to safeguard women across the nation and abroad are being discussed in response to the murder.

Ala Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said: “Women in our societies are hostage to backward customs due to the absence of legal deterrents and government measures, which currently are not commensurate with the size of domestic violence crimes.”

She urged her colleagues and lawmakers to support the proposed anti-domestic abuse law, which expressly protects family members from violent crimes and other serious bodily damage.

The United Nations Mission in Iraq said Tiba’s “abhorrent killing” was a “regretful reminder of the violence and injustice that still exists against women and girls in Iraq today”.

It also called on the Iraqi government to “support laws and policies to prevent violence against women and girls, take all necessary measures to address impunity by ensuring that all perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice and the rights of women and girls are protected”.

The focus on outmoded laws failing to protect women from harm and gender-based violence throughout the globe has been raised by Tiba’s reality for many people.

However, for some, she is just another illustration of what is frequently hidden and the hundreds of people who came before her whose stories were never shared.

1- Header image: Tiba al-Ali (deceased), Iraq’s YouTube star. — Reuters

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