Maria’s murder: what caused it?
On the eve of “International Women’s Day” in Erbil, Iraq, 20-year-old influencer Iman Sami Magdeed, nicknamed “Maria”, was murdered by her brother. As well as advocating for women’s rights and the rainbow community (LGBTQI+) on social media, she loved to sing and occasionally posted videos of herself singing.
Maria wrote some tweets before her murder, in which she said: “I sing and suffer for the human being, for the oppressor and the oppressed, I suffer for a lack of love and sacrifice,” and she added: “I am not afraid of pain, because it is always part of me.”
As she posted on social media about her favorite dreams, interests, and lifestyle, Maria also spoke boldly and recklessly about her love desires; something which is forbidden in a society like Kurdistan by mullahs with different Islamic and patriarchal tendencies.
After the news of her murder spread, some attributed the cause of the crime to Maria changing her religion, and they rumored that she is the daughter of a cleric. This was denied by her friend, a political activist and a member of the “Metro Center” in Erbil, Nabez Rashid, in an interview.
Rasheed stressed that “Iman’s murder was not related to her religious orientation at all.” He denied recent rumors about changing her religion from Islam and converting to Christianity. It turned out that the girl’s father worked in the vegetable trade and was not a cleric, as was said.
Rashid discusses the story in detail, stating, “I met Maria, who complained to me about having been harassed more than once by her brother and the father’s family, both of which are religiously extremist families due to the nature of her activities and the clothes she wears, which her family deems incompatible with Islamic traditions.”
The political activist argues that the issue is all about traditions and social customs.
As her father told local media, Maria “had no problem, but she didn’t settle in my house or her mother’s house… Even after we married her, she didn’t settle in her marriage and separated.” He added, “Her brother was not comfortable with her activity on social media and went to take her home, but she refused to come with him, so he killed her,” noting that he was trying to persuade his son to surrender to the authorities.
Her 12-year-old forced marriage, which according to her boyfriend, did not last long and ended in divorce, caused Maria many psychological repercussions. In the recent years she has been repeatedly harassed by her ex-husband and her family.
According to Rasheed, the victim has always expressed her astonishment at society’s persistent disregard for women’s suffering and rights while focusing and paying attention to her Hijab and clothes. She was active in defending the rights of women, children, LGBTQI+ individuals, and others denied their rights because she had a lot of humanity and positive ideas.
“Anjam Sami,” Maria’s 18-year-old brother, murdered her by shooting several bulets, claiming that she had tarnished the family’s reputation. He discussed his motivations for killing his sister in a phone call with Kurdistan 24 television in a live show: “I have been thinking about this for some time. I said my sister might go back to the right path, if not, there will be no choice but to kill her.” The murderer continued: “She did not listen to the family, and her social media activities had tarnished the family’s reputation.”
Despite the fact that Anjam Sami and his uncle as the accomplice were arrested after confessing, this is just one of the hundreds of honor killings that are taking place in Kurdistan.
Women’s right in Kurdistan region
As women’s rights activists repeatedly point out, violence and “Femicide” have increased, but cultural and religious prejudices, as well as the legal vacuum, all contribute to violence against women in Kurdistan.
The statistics show that since the beginning of the new year, 14 women have been killed in this region. 24 women were killed, 62 committed suicide, and nine set themselves on fire last year, according to the Center for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“The tragedy is that she was an early bride, and the wave of killing is increasing daily, and now it has reached the activists, and we do not know what will happen in the future?”
Human rights activist Nadia Abdel says she is not surprised women are killed in Iraq, whether in the north or the south, because “the nature of society is tribal and clan-based, and women who challenge their outdated traditions and customs are stigmatized.”
She assures (Raise Your Voice) that “the rule of law has a great role to play in the killing of women simply because the people applying the law deliberately tolerate those who commit women’s murder for reasons of (morality, honor, and clan reputation).”
“Maria was a free woman who faced all kinds of sexual and gender-based violence that women experience in their life, but she always fought against it,” said Zano, a rights activist for the Kurdistan Rainbow community.
“I am very happy to be living in a traditional and religious family and community, and I have not been killed to this day,” Maria said in a ClubHouse discusion before being murdered.
In his remarks, Maria’s brother proudly confessed to the murder and considered himself a hero. Some of Maria’s friends and relatives believe that she was killed by her father and uncle because her relationship with her brother was good and they loved each other very much. “It is thought that because his brother is a minor, his father and uncle forced him to commit the crime.”
Specifically, honor killings are most common in the Middle East and in countries governed or effected by Islamic law, where the honor of the man depends on the chastity of the woman, and where sharia, patriarchy, educational poverty, and social inequality justify and reproduce misogyny and femicide.
Honor killings are carried out to remove “taints of shame”, “restore family honor” or compensate for “social shame”, and their common denominator is sexual relations and love outside the norm and sharia. Most of all, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq and Iran are the scene of such crimes. Turkey, a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, recently withdrew from the treaty. A treaty that criminalized murder, domestic violence, coercion, or rape in a married life and was punishable by law.
According to a study conducted by the “Turkish Population Association” with support from the United Nations Development Program, Turkish citizens place more value on “honor” than any other value. 70% of respondents in four cities, including Istanbul, said in response to what honor is: “Women is the honor of the man. (mother/sister/wife/daughter)”
“Families kill them and they are used to taking the body out of the city and throwing it away like garbage,” said Parvin Zabihi, a women’s rights activist, about the honor killings and the unmarked cemetery.
“In the Chamchal region of Kurdistan, where honor killings are high, they are taken the body around the city and throw it in any kind of pit. It is the other people who find the bodies and report them. The municipality then buries them as anonymous. None of the relatives even attend the humble ceremony that the municipality holds. That is, the corpse is also isolated. They also kill a child born out of wedlock. Graves are assigned only a number by the municipality; one, two, three, four…”
I used the following 3 sources to write this report: