In recent years, Iraq has witnessed a distressing series of violations against its most vulnerable population: children.
The heart-wrenching stories of young victims such as Retaj Al-Badiri, Mousa Walaa, and Tiba al-Ali, represent a broader crisis of child protection in Iraq, where children face severe threats to their safety, well-being, and basic human rights.
Retaj Al-Badiri: A Life Cut Short
Tiba al-Ali: A YouTuber’s Tragic Fate
Tiba al-Ali, a vivacious and popular YouTuber, had dreams of a bright future. However, her life took a horrifying turn, revealing the deeply rooted issues surrounding women’s rights and “honour killings” in Iraq.
The killing of Tiba al-Ali
The killing of Tiba al-Ali in Iraq in January 2023 was believed to be an honor killing by her father. Tiba, who was born in Iraq but had moved to Turkey in 2017, frequently made YouTube videos with her fiancé about life in Istanbul. When she visited her family in Iraq, she was strangled in her sleep by her father, who objected to her living in Turkey. In Iraq, there are no laws against domestic violence, leading many to categorize it as an honor killing.
Following the incident, protests erupted in Iraq in February, with activists calling for a law against domestic violence and drawing attention to the rising violence against women in the country.
In April 2023, Tiba’s father, Tayyip Ali, was sentenced to six months in jail for the killing. General Saad Mann of the Iraqi Interior Ministry referred to it as a “criminal accident” from a legal perspective, but acknowledged that it could be seen as an honor killing from other perspectives.
The Outcry for Change
Tiba’s murder triggered protests across Iraq, prompting a critical examination of the country’s laws regarding “honour killings.” The Iraqi Penal Code, which allows “honour” as a mitigation for crimes of violence against family members, is at the heart of the issue. It permits lenient punishments based on provocation or “honourable motives,” perpetuating a culture of violence against women.
The Toll on Women’s Rights
Tiba’s case highlights the broader crisis facing women’s rights and the protection of children in Iraq. These “honour killings” are deeply rooted in misogyny, often driven by a desire to control women’s bodies and behavior. Using the term “honour killing” perpetuates the harmful idea that victims are somehow responsible for their own deaths, intensifying their suffering.
The Broader Crisis of Child Protection in Iraq
These stories, tragically cut short, paint a grim picture of child protection in Iraq. Children in the country face multifaceted threats to their safety and well-being, from unexploded ordnances to domestic violence and “honour killings.” The plight of these young victims calls for urgent action to address the root causes and provide greater protection.
The Urgent Need for Child Protection
The stories of Retaj Al-Badiri, Tiba al-Ali, Mousa Walaa, and others underscore the urgent need for comprehensive child protection measures in Iraq. These measures should address the following critical areas:
- Eradicating Unexploded Ordinances : Iraq must intensify efforts to clear areas contaminated by unexploded ordnances, ensuring the safety of children and communities. International support and collaboration are essential to address this persistent threat.
- Reforming “Honour Killing” Laws : Iraq’s legal framework must be reformed to eliminate the outdated provisions that allow lenient sentences for “honour killings.” Strengthening legal protections for women and children is imperative.
- Domestic Violence Prevention : Efforts to prevent domestic violence and child abuse should be prioritized. Education and awareness campaigns, along with legal reforms, can help combat this deeply entrenched issue.
- Mental Health Support : Children who survive traumatic experiences require access to mental health and psychosocial support services. These services should be readily available and accessible to all affected children.
The Call for Change – Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Basic Human Rights
The tragic stories of Retaj Al-Badiri, Tiba al-Ali, Mousa Walaa, and countless other children in Iraq should serve as a clarion call for change. Iraq must prioritize the safety and well-being of its children, ensuring that they can grow up in an environment free from violence, fear, and discrimination.
A Plea for International Support
The international community has a vital role to play in supporting Iraq’s efforts to protect its children. This includes providing financial assistance, expertise, and advocacy for the implementation of child protection measures.
As we mourn the loss of these innocent lives, let us also commit to preventing further tragedies and creating a safer future for the children of Iraq.
- BBC News – The Iraqi YouTube star killed by her father
- UNICEF – 315,000 grave violations against children in conflict
- Gulf News – 10-year old Iraqi girl killed by father after her unintended Tiktok appearance
- Al Bawaba – “Iraqi child tortured to death by his stepmother
- Sumeria News – “Death of a child in Mosul as a result of the explosion of a remnant of war (Arabic)
- Al Jazeera – “Iraqi father kills daughter over honour fears (Arabic)
- Al Bawaba – “New documentary reveals reality of unexploded ordnance in Iraq (Arabic)