Iraqis protest gender-based violence after YouTube star murder

DIWANIYAH, Iraq — Dozens of Iraqi protesters gathered on Sunday to denounce the so-called “honor killing” of a 22-year-old YouTube star who was allegedly strangled by her father, fueling calls for legal reforms to protect women.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on Friday that Tiba Ali was killed on January 31 in the central city of Diwaniyah by her father, who later turned himself in to police. Reports indicate that the father strangled Ali at night as she slept.

The so-called ‘honour killing’ has been condemned by women’s and residents’ rights groups, who have sounded the alarm over violence against women in Iraq and the need for law reform to impose harsher penalties on perpetrators.

Protesters held banners condemning the killing and demanding legislative reform. “There is no honor in the crime of killing women,” read one sign.

“Anyone who wants to get rid of a woman accuses her of violating her dignity and kills her,” protester Israa al-Salman told The Associated Press, who also wanted Ali’s father executed.

Article 41 of the country’s penal code allows husbands to “discipline” their wives, which includes beatings. Meanwhile, Section 409 reduces murder sentences for men who kill or permanently impair their wives or loved ones due to adultery to up to three years in prison.

Rosa al-Hamid, an activist with the civil society group Organization for the Freedom of Women in Iraq, urged authorities to pass a domestic violence bill that has been dragging its feet in Iraq’s parliament since 2019.

“Tiba was killed by her father under tribal justifications which are unacceptable,” she told the AP.

Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Aya Majzoub, said in a press release that violence against women and girls in Iraq will continue until “the authorities Iraqis adopt strong legislation to protect women and girls from gender-based violence”.

The Diwaniyah City Police Department and hospital administration declined to comment to the AP on Ali’s death.

Tiba Ali lived 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 loved life there.

Her father reportedly disagreed with the move, nor with her plan to marry his partner. Maan said Ali and his father had a heated argument during a visit to Iraq and the day before his murder, local community police intervened to help them reach a settlement.

Iraqi NGO Support Her Organization for Women’s Rights shared voice recordings Ali allegedly sent to friends the day before he was killed. In the recording, she confronts her mother and father about not returning to Iraq after her brother sexually assaults her. The audio ends with her father screaming and punching her as she screams in pain. The AP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recording.


Salim contributed from Erbil, Iraq. Associated Press writer Kareem Chehayeb reported from Beirut.


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