Query response on Iraq: Suleimania: Consequences for a girl who resists the will of her parents to marry and runs away from home to marry another man; possible honour crimes; state protection [a-11461 2]

11 January 2021

This document was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to ACCORD as well as information provided by experts within time constraints and in accordance with ACCORD’s methodological standards and the Common EU Guidelines for processing Country of Origin Information (COI).

This document is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status, asylum or other form of international protection.

Please read in full all documents referred to.

Non-English language information is summarised in English. Original language quotations are provided for reference in the document or upon request.

Honour killings in case of resisting marriage and running away from home with another man

In 2015 Minority Rights Group International (MRG), an international human rights organisation working to promote the rights of ethnic, national, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples together with the conflict monitoring organisation Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights published a report on ‘The Lost Women of Iraq: Family-based violence during armed conflict’. Next to secondary sources, the report uses primary data collected by the ASUDA Organization for Combating Violence against Women in Iraq across seven Iraqi cities: Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Kirkuk, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah, gathering a total of 1,709 testimonies. The report provides a definition for honour crimes, mentioning the refusal to marry a man chosen by the family and marrying against the family’s wishes as reasons for ‘honour’ crimes to be committed, which most often are said to take the form of murder:

So-called ‘honour’ crimes are acts of violence perpetrated by family members against a relative who is perceived to have brought shame upon the family or tribe. ‘Honour’ crimes are overwhelmingly perpetrated by male family members against female relatives, although occasionally males are also the victims of such violence. […]

In Iraq, ‘honour’ crimes most often take the form of murder, although they can also encompass other forms of violence such as physical abuse, confinement, control of movement, deprivation of education, forced marriage, forced suicide and public dishonouring. ‘Honour’ crimes are most often perpetrated after a woman has committed or is suspected of committing any of the following: engaging in friendships or pre-marital relationships with a member of the opposite sex; refusing to marry a man chosen by the family; marrying against the family’s wishes; committing adultery; or being a victim of rape or kidnapping. […]

Transgressions of honour are seen as unforgivable and the ‘taint’ on the family’s honour does not decrease over time. In most cases, the only way to absolve a transgression of honour is to kill the woman, and sometimes the man as well.“ (MRG/Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, 4 November 2015, p. 26)

The report mentions an example of 2012 of a woman killed by her father because she wanted to marry a man her father considered unsuitable:

“In February 2012, Sakar Hamadamin, a schoolteacher in Rania district, was shot and killed in her sleep by her father. Hamadamin had reportedly wanted to marry a man her father considered unsuitable. He decided to kill her after receiving a phone call from a member of his tribe humiliating him for not taking action against his daughter. In September of the same year, a Sulaymaniyah court found the father ‘not guilty’, which caused uproar and led the Prime Minister to call for a retrial.“ (MRG/Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, 4 November 2015, p. 29)

The German newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung (HAZ) in 2018 published an article about the arrest of a young Kurdish man in Dohuk in the Kurdistan Region, who is accused of murdering his cousin at her wedding in Germany two years ago after she refused to marry him:

“Der mutmaßliche Mörder der im März 2016 in Vahrenheide erschossenen Shilan H. ist offenbar gefasst. Wie die kurdische Polizei am Sonntag mitteilte, soll der 24-jährige Kurde Sefin Nahmann P. im Irak festgenommen worden sein. […]

Der Verdächtige sei am Freitag in der kurdischen Provinz Dohuk im Nordirak festgenommen worden, sagte der leitende Polizeibeamte Hajman Suliman. […]

Die Schießerei ereignete sich am Abend des 13. März 2016 auf der jesidischen Hochzeitsfeier in einem Star Event Center an der Straße Am alten Flughafen in Vahrenheide, Shilan H. und der Todesschütze waren unter den 300 Gästen. Der damals 22-Jährige soll gezielt auf seine Cousine zugegangen sein und sie mit mehreren Schüssen getötet haben. Fünf weitere Menschen wurden bei dem Vorfall verletzt. […]

Shilan H.s Vater erhob kurze Zeit nach dem Mord schwere Vorwürfe, seine Tochter habe sich gegen eine geplante Zwangshochzeit gewehrt. ‚Meine Tochter wurde ein Opfer von veralteten Bräuchen und Traditionen‘, schrieb Ghazi H. damals auf Facebook. Demnach habe es 2015 einen Bruch mit dem Rest der Verwandtschaft gegeben, als seine beiden Brüder versuchten, eine Zwangsehe zwischen dem gesuchten Sefin und dessen Cousine Shilan zu arrangieren.“ (HAZ, 17 October 2018)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) confirms as part of their International Protection Considerations with Regard to People Fleeing the Republic of Iraq of May 2019 that refusing an arranged marriage and attempting to marry someone against the wishes of the family can constitute reasons for ‘honour’-based violence being committed:

“d) ‘Honour’-Based Violence

Violence committed by family members to protect the honour of the family or tribe reportedly remains widespread, and is ‘cutting through religious and ethnic divides, with a strong tribal element and linked with the strong patriarchal society’. Women and girls and, to a lesser extent, men and boys, may be killed or subjected to other types of violence because they are perceived to have transgressed cultural, social or religious norms, thereby bringing shame to their family. ‘Honour’-based violence is said to occur for a variety of reasons, including (perceived) adultery, loss of virginity (even by rape), refusal of an arranged marriage, attempt to marry someone against the wishes of the family, or seeking a divorce.“ (UNHCR, May 2019, p. 92)

In 2020, three organisations working for the promotion of women and human rights, the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic (HRGJ) of the City University of New York, MADRE and The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), submitted a report on gender based violence in Iraq to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, elaborating that women may be killed for marrying someone of their choice:

“’Honor’ crimes refer to violence or killings, primarily of women and girls, committed by family or tribal members, for perceived transgressions of societal norms, including patriarchal gender norms, which are said to bring shame to their families. Women or girls may be killed for adultery (including perceived adultery), for having been raped, refusing forced marriage, seeking a divorce, or seeking or being perceived to date or marry someone of their choice.“ (HRGJ et al, 2020, pp. 4-5)

The Danish Immigration Service (DIS) and the Norwegian Country of Origin Information Center Landinfo, an independent body within the Norwegian immigration authorities, which provides COI services to various actors within the immigration authorities in November 2018 published a joint report on women and men in honour-related conflicts in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The report is based on interviews conducted in Erbil and Sulaimania from 22 to 30 April 2018, as part of which 15 interlocutors, comprising an international organisation, NGOs, authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), an academic informant, a diplomatic representation as well as a lawyer were consulted. The report mentions that a woman is more likely to be killed if her relationship is known to a wider circle of people outside the family:

4. Consequences of extramarital relationships

4.1 Premarital relationships

Women who have had a premarital affair known to their families, or who get married without the acceptance of their families, are at risk of being killed. The problem can be solved if the couple either marries with her family’s blessing, or if the woman leaves the man and returns to her own family, if the father accepts it.

In few cases the family will manage to contain the story within the family and find a solution, e.g. restoring the hymen. If marriage is not possible and the relationship continues, the family will in some cases kill her. Another source said that if a female family member has been raped, she is in a danger of being murdered by her own father. However, the source stated that more educated people would not resort to killing.

If the relationship is revealed to a wider circle of people outside the family, there is an even higher risk that the family will kill her. The source further noted that killing a female family member is sometimes done to send a signal to the community that the men of this family are able to save their family’s honour.“ (DIS/Landinfo, November 2018, p. 14)

Honour killing: Who is targeted?

Al-Monitor, an online news platform for news coverage of the Middle East, mentions in an article dated 25 July 2013, the murder of a fourteen-year-old girl and a sixteen-year-old man in a village near Sulaimania city on 11 July. The couple were shot dead by their relatives after they learned that the two wanted to leave the village to get married. (Al-Monitor, 25 July 2013)

The Kurdish media network Rudaw describes in an article of 2020 the killing of a husband and wife by her family twenty years before the publication of the article. The woman is said to have run away and gotten married without the family’s blessing. The article further relates a conversation among the woman’s family at the time about the possibility of hurting the man’s family:

“One last proposal was tabled before the end of the meeting Zorab was chairing.

‘We’re with you. If you want, we can send a group of young men to attack the family house of the man or kill one of his brothers,’ another relative in attendance suggested.

‘Let’s not blow the problem out of proportion. We’ve spoken to the man’s father and settled everything,’ said Nasralddin, Shehriban's older brother.

 ‘What do you mean?’ one relative inquired.

 ‘We told them [the man's family] that if we find them, we would kill them both, and if they [the man's family] find them then they could kill them both,’ Nasralddin replied, telling the meeting's attendees that there were witnesses to the agreement between the two families that would leave the issue done and dusted. […]

The older man hesitated, and Safa, who had his wits about him, tried to talk sense to the man holding the gun. In the meantime, Nasralddin took out the pistol he had brought with him and shot the man in the head from ten yards. One bullet to the man and he collapsed.

Shehriban’s younger brother took her hand and dragged her along the asphalt. ‘Brother, we haven't done anything wrong,’ she kept saying, ‘we were married based on the sunnah of the Prophet’ – the couple had officially been married in a city under central government control, in accordance with the rules of Islam. Regardless, the brother shot Shehriban in the head.

The men shrouded the married couple’s dead bodies with shrubbery and stones, and left.

‘We were delirious and all over the place. It was the first time we’d committed murder, we were in distress and didn’t know what to do. We went to my father's house and said ‘Dad, we’re done, the issue was settled,’ Nasralddin recalled.

‘My father told us, ‘throw your shoes away, change the brand of cigarette you smoke, burn and throw your clothes away, leave no sign of what you did. The guns – don't take them to the weapons bazaar, take them to a friend's house and don't touch them for another ten years’.’

That night, the father called up the relatives to announce the mission had been accomplished.

The family had a connection in the local Asayesh force, who did not bother the family except for a few visits to go through the motions of a formal investigation into Shehriban’s disappearance.

‘It was routine. The Asayesh needed to do paperwork because they don't want to cause issues with the tribes,’ Nasralddin said. ‘If the authorities were serious, we would all have had to confess and we could all have been imprisoned.’” (Rudaw, 11 December 2020)

From January 6 to 20 in 2010, Danish Immigration Service (DIS) went on a fact finding mission to Erbil, Sulaimania and Dohuk with the aim of collecting information on the protection and support of male victims of honor crimes in the Kurdistan region. The delegation to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq consulted representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities, a university lecturer/researcher, and an independent newspaper. As part of that report, DIS translated and cited an article published by the Kurdish media network Rudaw in 2010, which describes the case of a man in Sulaimania being murdered and his wife seriously injured after some of her relatives stormed the couple's apartment and shot at the couple because they got married without consent of the family:

Four months ago, Sirwa married a man who she had been in love with for a year and a half, and the couple’s wish was to create a life of marriage together. Their wedding was one of love, and their honeymoon full of fear and horror, as there was a possibility that someone would make life difficult for them, as ‘they made everything bitter for us and destroyed everything’.

On January 3, 2010 at nine in the evening in a part of the city of Sulemaniyah called Rizgari, the sound of gun shots shook the neighbourhood and the perpetrators fled before the police arrived at the scene of the crime. The police removed the body of Aram Jamal from the house, along with the 22-year old wounded woman, Sirwa Mohammad Amin, the wounded Sirwa stated from her hospital bed her tragic story to Rudaw. [...]

Sirwa speaking with difficulty, says of the incident, ‘Aram was sleeping while I was in the shower and some persons came into the house and started shooting, when I hurried out and saw that Aram had been killed, after which shots were fired at me’. She added, ‘I saw my brother, with numerous other relatives, shooting’.” (DIS, March 2010, pp. 19-20)

The report goes on to explain the great threat for men and women if marrying against the will of their families:

According to DVW [Directorate to Follow-up Violence against Women] Sulemaniyah, the truth is, that if they [couples marrying against the will of their families] stay in Iraq, they are at risk of being killed by the family.

Jwan Ihsan Fawzi, University of Sulemaniyah, explained that when reconciliation is not durable the man at risk can do nothing but try to flee the country. He might even attempt to relocate within Iraq all the while changing his name to avoid being found.

Kajaw Jamal Jalal, Hawlati newspaper, Sulemaniyah, informed that it is not safe for a man under threat from an honour crime to remain in Iraq. It might not even be safe for him to leave Iraq for e.g. Iran, Turkey or Syria. Even if the person under threat stays abroad for a number of years and eventually returns to KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq], it is not certain that he would be out of danger before the honour of the family involved is restored.” (DIS, March 2010, p. 14)

Informants consulted by DIS stated that men, just like women, would be at risk of honour crimes committed against them:

Hassan Berwari, Country Representative, Diakonia, Dahuk, stated that women, as well as men, are victims of honour crimes, and both are being killed for honour offenses. It was emphasized that men are equally at risk of becoming victims of honour crimes as women. Honour crimes against men are common in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq]. It was added that conflicts arising from sexual relationships between young men and women are not as numerous [as earlier].

Edrees Salih, Erbil, stated that honour crimes have been significantly reduced in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] during the recent years. However, still, in some cases, the threat posed to such men involved in offenses, exists up until a reconciliation being reached.

Dr. Jwan Ihsan Fawzi, University of Sulemaniyah, informed that she had heard of men being victims of honour crimes.” (DIS, March 2010, p. 3)

“Ari Rafiq and Huda S. Zangana, DVW [Directorate to Follow-up Violence against Women], Erbil, stated the risk of retribution for an honour-related offense is always there. The matter of a tarnished honour of a family not yet rectified is eternal, and if a lasting reconciliation is not accomplished, the offender of that family honour will be at risk at all times. Even if a man responsible for threats against a man who has offended his family’s honour is imprisoned, there is a serious risk that another member of the offended family will undertake the revenge, including the killing of the offender.

Sardasht Abdulrahman Majid and Aree Jaza Mahmoud, DHRD [Democracy and Human Rights Development Center], Sulemaniyah, stated that in rural areas, the offenders of a family’s honour would be at a very high risk of being killed. The girl’s father or the woman’s husband would most likely kill his daughter or his wife for having an illicit sexual relation with another man. It was added that the killing could also be committed by other family members. After this, the male offender would then be at high risk of being killed.

Hassan Berwari, Diakonia, Dahuk, confirmed that women, as well as men, may be killed for having committed an honour-related offense when there is a tribal settlement to the issue.

It was underlined that reconciliation is more common when disputes are among families within the same tribe. When the dispute is between families from different tribes, killing of the offender/offenders is often the ultimate solution.” (DIS, March 2010, p. 7)

“As an example of how a dispute could be solved Hassan Berwari, Diakonia, Dahuk, referred to a particular case: A young man ran away with his girlfriend, however, as the situation escalated, he sought the protection of the police as he feared becoming a victim of an honour crime. All the while, 18 armed members of the girl’s family were after him, and the police decided to contact the tribe to settle the matter which was finally solved through the tribal leaders.” (DIS, March 2010, pp. 5-6)

The Research Department of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) provides country of origin information from public sources in asylum procedures of Canadian immigration authorities. As part of their query response of February 2016 on honour-based violence in the Kurdistan region, state protection and support services available to victims, they quote a representative of the NGO WADI, who believes that boys and men are not likely to be victims of honour-based violence:

“In contrast, in the opinion of the WADI representative, boys and men are ‘not very likely’ to become victims of honour-based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan, and when they are affected, ‘most’ of the time it is due to ‘supposed homosexuality’ (WADI 25 Jan. 2016).” (IRB, 15 February 2016)

DIS and Landinfo in their report on Women and Men in Honour-related Conflicts in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) of November 2018 describe the situation of returnees who fled an honour conflict:

If a couple runs off together abroad and if they marry and have children, the conflict situation will improve. At the contrary, in case the couple does not marry the conflict will still be there. The source consulted, WEO [Women’s Empowerment Organization], did not know about any women who had returned to the KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] after having fled due to an honour conflict.

Some years ago, a couple engaged in premarital relations managed to escape to Iran and got married without the approval of their families. They returned to the KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] many years later with two children. But the conflict still remained and they were both killed.

It is possible for a couple to run away for some time, but the families will find them eventually. There have been cases where people fled to Europe, but they were found by the involved parties and killed. No concrete examples were given by the source.“ (DIS and Landinfo, November 2018, p. 20)

Protection and assistance to girls and their boyfriends by the state

The Danish Immigration Service (DIS) conducted a joint fact-finding mission with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to Erbil, KRI (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) and Beirut, Lebanon from 26 September to 6 October 2015 to find out more about the security and humanitarian situation in the Kurdistan Region. In the process of compiling the report, the delegation consulted 22 sources in total, comprising representatives from international organisations, academics, NGOs, a western diplomat, journalists and local authorities. The report compiles the following information on the possibilities of seeking protection and assistance for female victims of honour crimes:

4.3 Protection of women in cases of honour crimes

4.3.1 Possibility to seek protection from Kurdish authorities

Various sources referred to the existence of legislation in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] to prevent honour crimes or protect victims. Being among these sources, UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] added that there are institutions that can be used to enforce this legislation. Various sources, however, said that honour crimes take place in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq], and two of these sources along with two other sources referred to many locals usually turning to traditional justice, for example through tribal links, to resolve cases related to 'honour'. Two sources said that honour related crimes are more common in rural areas than in urban areas.

One of these sources, Journalist Osama Al Habahbeh explained that, in rural areas, the tribe will protect the family's honour rather than the individual. Journalist Osama Al Habahbeh also said that the police will not interfere in such matters.

IOM [International Organization for Migration] explained that, even though the family of a victim who has approached the authorities may be summoned to court, most honour related cases are solved through a negotiation process run by the tribe or family members and parallel to the official procedure through the court system. According to IOM [International Organization for Migration], the court is then informed of the agreement.

Three sources stated that they did not have information on cases of honour crimes brought to court in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq]. IOM [International Organization for Migration] explained that women are often reluctant to involve the authorities, and that officials will often suggest that the issue is solved outside the court system. On the other hand, Journalist Osama Al Habahbeh said that there are cases of honour crimes brought to court. PAO/KHRW [Public Aid Organization / Kurdish Human Rights Watch] said that there is no access to insight in the processing of cases of honour related crimes but explained that courts often register honour killings as 'killed by an unknown' and then close the cases.

Various sources mentioned that victims threatened by honour crimes can be referred to women shelters run under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Dohuk, Erbil and Sulamania by the authorities. Journalist Osama Al Habahbeh said that the only way to protect a woman who risks honour killing is to put her in jail or a shelter resembling a jail where she risks being raped or sold through human trafficking by the authorities. Some of the other sources indicated that the shelters are poorly managed. In line with this, a western diplomat said that the shelters in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] have been overburdened, and UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] said that there are very few shelters. IOM [International Organization for Migration] said that women might risk being misused inside shelters. However, UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] said that, generally speaking, women are not mistreated in the shelters, but their rights are not respected and, when KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] authorities deal with victims of violence, their approach is not survivor centred. According to UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees], authorities will, often and without consent of the survivor, bring the perpetrators to the shelter and try to negotiate a solution at the expense of the victim. Journalist Osama Al Habahbeh said that mediation with the family is not a possibility. UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] said that, often, the authorities bring the perpetrators to the shelters for mediation with the survivor. This is typically done without consent of the survivor. […]

4.3.1 Ability of relatives to track down victims

Three sources referred to relatives being able to track down women who had run away in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq]. In line with this, UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] stated that, in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq], it would be difficult for a victim of an honour crime to escape the perpetrators and seek protection from the authorities. Journalist Osama Al Habahbeh said that a woman fleeing honour killing cannot hide anywhere in Iraq. A western diplomat, however, said that there is no formal system for families to track down their own family members within KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq].“ (DIS, April 2016, p. 46-48)

The Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) together with twelve other co-sponsors in January 2019 submitted a report for the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls in Iraq, as part of which they confirm the existence of women’s shelters in the Kurdistan Region, but explain that there are not enough to meet the needs:

“Only in the region of Kurdistan have some local NGOs been permitted to run and maintain shelters for women fleeing violence. In 2011, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) passed Domestic Law No. 8, the Law against Domestic Violence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which calls for the creation of women’s shelters. While the law does not explicitly allow for NGO’s to run shelters, it provided space for collaboration between government and civil society and led to the creation of some shelters although not enough to meet the current needs.“ (OWFI et al., January 2019, p. 11)

In their abovementioned 2018 joint report on Women and men in honour related conflicts, DIS and Landinfo explain the situation of women’s shelters in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as follows:

5.6 Protection in shelters

There is a shelter for women in each of the bigger cities in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq]: Erbil, Sulaimania and Dohuk. These shelters are run by the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] authority DCVAW [Directorate of Combatting Violence Against Women]. The capacity for each centre is approximately 20 to 40 women. In Sulaimania there is also a privately managed shelter. The reasons for entering the shelters could be forced marriage, child marriage, allegations of adultery. Regarding the average time that a woman will spend in the DCVAW [Directorate of Combatting Violence Against Women] managed shelters, WEO [Women’s Empowerment Organization] said that some women spend six to eight months and other women up to five or six years; while DCVAW [Directorate of Combatting Violence Against Women] said that generally cases will be solved during 6 months.

Access to the DCVAW [Directorate of Combatting Violence Against Women] centres normally requires a court order. However, in urgent cases a woman can access the shelter directly with a court order being filed subsequently. […]

When a woman leaves the shelter, her life will be in danger even though her family has a restraining order. The woman might get killed by her family or commit suicide or being pressured to do so.“ (DIS/Landinfo, November 2018, pp. 18-19)

The report goes on to say that there are no shelters for men in the region:

Possibility for protection for heterosexual men

There are no shelters for men in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq].“ (DIS/Landinfo, November 2018, p. 23)

As part of its 2010 report on Honour Crimes against Men in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the Availability of Protection, DIS elaborates that men would only be able to seek protection through the police in the short run, by being put into prison:

Concerning honour crimes and assistance to victims of honour crimes, Hassan Berwari, Diakonia, Dahuk, explained that all focus is on women. However, men are also victims of honour crimes. It was added that KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] is a tribal society, and defending a family’s honour is the concern of men.

Khanim R. Latif, Asuda, Sulemaniyah, stated that male victims of honour disputes are much less likely than women to find assistance and protection from the police and/or from other authorities as well as NGOs. Basically, men who are under threat of an honour crime, such as killing, only have the option to flee the country.

Dr. Jwan Ihsan Fawzi, University of Sulemaniyah, confirmed Khanim R. Latif’s observation that male victims of honour threats are much less likely than women to find assistance and protection from the police and/or other authorities and NGOs. There are only shelters for accommodating women, and there are no NGOs or governmental institutions that address the issue of men as victims of honour threats.“ (DIS, March 2010, p. 9)

“Kajaw Jamal Jalal, Hawlati newspaper, Sulemaniyah, considered that when men are at risk of being victims of honour crimes, they are in real danger. Honour is a genuine issue and it would often be shameful for a male under threat of an honour crime to approach the police for protection. Should a man request assistance and protection from the police, it is by no means certain that the police would be able to address the threat against him permanently. […]

DVW [Directorate to Follow-up Violence against Women] Sulemaniyah, informed that those men whose lives are threatened due to an honour offense can be protected by the police temporarily. Protection can be given by permitting them [men at risk] to stay in police detention.

Hassan Berwari, Diakonia, Dahuk, stressed that the authorities will not be able to protect a man at risk of an honour crime in the long run. It is not a durable solution to stay in prison.

Dr. Jwan Ihsan Fawzi, University of Sulemaniyah, stated that to approach the police in an attempt to avoid becoming a victim of an honour crime, is not a feasible solution. The influence and power of the offended family may well be stronger than the authority of the police. The vast majority of persons under threat from honour crimes would never seek the protection of the police. Many police officers are influenced by tribal authority and tradition. It was added that the local community is likely to support tribal solutions with regard to offenders of honour, even when this involves the killing of the offender/offenders.“ (DIS, March 2010, p. 10)

The report continues that there are no shelters for men in the Kurdistan Region. NGOs are unable to assist male victims and an example is given of a couple who approached a shelter and the man could not be assisted:

“Hassan Berwari, Diakonia, Dahuk, stated that he had never heard of men being assisted by any NGO in a situation where they fear becoming victims of an honour crime. The only option for such men is either to turn to the authorities or to a tribal leader, or to leave the country. It was emphasized that turning to the authorities for protection would not be a durable solution. Khanim R. Latif, Asuda, Sulemaniyah, explained that if a man and a woman under threat of an honour crime approached Asuda, it would not be possible for Asuda to accommodate both in Asuda’s shelter. Such a case has occurred, and Asuda had to advise the man to go into hiding by leaving Iraq. […]

DVW [Directorate to Follow-up Violence against Women] Sulemaniyah, stated that there are no shelters, or other facilities, to protect men.

Khanim R. Latif, Asuda, Sulemaniyah, stated that the situation for a man under honour-related threat is considerably more difficult than for a woman under threat. It was confirmed that there are no shelters for men, only detention facilities, and this is no solution, according to Khanim R. Latif.

Mahdi M. Qadr and Fakhir Ibrahim, PAO [Public Aid Organization], Erbil, also informed that there are no shelters for men who may be in need of protection, and their only option is to find safety in police detention.

Hassan Berwari, Diakonia, Dahuk, correspondingly stated that there are no shelter facilities in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] for men at risk of an honour crime.

Finally, Sardasht Abdulrahman Majid and Aree Jaza Mahmoud, DHRD [Democracy and Human Rights Development Center], Sulemaniyah, informed that NGOs cannot provide protection, and there are no shelters in KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] that can accommodate males.“ (DIS, March 2010, p. 13)

UNHCR describes in its International Protection Considerations with Regard to People Fleeing the Republic of Iraq of May 2019 that shelters lack funding, are limited in their capacity, provide poor quality of service and pose security risks. An obstacle to admission includes that government-run shelters require a judicial order for admission:

“In the KR-I, the Ministry of Social Affairs is reported to be operating shelters for female survivors and those at risk of domestic violence and trafficking. In addition, some local NGOs have reportedly been permitted to operate shelters for women fleeing domestic violence. Both government and NGO-run shelters are reported to suffer from a lack of funding, limited capacity, poor quality of services as well as security risks. A major obstacle for women to access government-run shelters in the KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] is that admission requires a judicial order, meaning that formal legal proceedings must be initiated against the perpetrator.

Observers indicate that, unless shelter staff, law enforcement officials or community leaders reach a mediated agreement with the woman’s family, the woman has no prospects for a future outside the shelter. Even if a family pledges not to harm the woman or girl upon return from the shelter, she may still be subjected to forced marriage or other forms of violence, including ‘honour killings’.“ (UNHCR, May 2019, p. 88)

The abovementioned 2015 Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and MRG joint report lists a number of cases where women and girls were murdered by their families after having been released from a shelter:

“In July 2012, 15-year-old Nigar Rahim was murdered by her brother in Garmian, Kurdistan. Rahim had previously been raped and impregnated by another brother. She was kept in the custody of a government-run shelter for six months after giving birth to the child. However, she was released back to her family after they signed a document agreeing not to harm her. One month after being released, she was murdered. […]

On 28 February 2014, the bodies of two sisters, Shler and Halema, aged 16 and 18 years, were found in a ditch in the town of Said Sadiq in Sulaymaniyah. The girls had approached the police for help in July of the previous year and were subsequently housed in a government-run shelter. However, they were released from the shelter after their family signed an agreement to protect them. Their killing prompted Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to establish a fact-finding commission to investigate their case.

The same day that the bodies of the two sisters were found, another 16-year-old girl was murdered by her father in Erbil. The girl had also previously sought refuge in a government shelter but was later handed back to her uncle.“ (MRG/Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Right, 4 November 2015, p. 29)

“The fact that, in many of these cases, women were released from shelters and handed back to their families despite the risk of further harm to them shows serious flaws in the shelter system.“ (MRG/Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Right, 4 November 2015, p. 30)


References: (all links accessed 11 January 2021)

·      Al-Monitor: In Iraqi Kurdistan "killing continues to wash away shame", [في كردستان العراق القتل مستمرّ لـ"غسل العار"], 25 July 2013

·      DIS – Danish Immigration Service: Honour Crimes against Men in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the Availability of Protection, March 2010

·      DIS – Danish Immigration Service: The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI); Access, Possibility of Protection, Security and Humanitarian Situation; Report from fact finding mission to Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and Beirut, Lebanon, 26 September to 6 October 2015, April 2016

·      DIS - Danish Immigration Service; Landinfo - Norwegian Country of Origin Information Center: Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI): Women and men in honour-related conflicts, November 2018

·      HAZ - Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung: Festnahme im Irak, Mutmaßlicher Mörder von Shilan H. gefasst [Arrested in Iraq, suspected murderer of Shilan H. caught], 17 October 2018

·      HRGJ – Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law/MADRE/OWFI - The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq: Seeking Accountability for Gender Based Violence and Human Rights Violations in Iraq; A Report for the United Nations Committee Against Torture, 2020
https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CAT/Shared Documents/IRQ/INT_CAT_ICO_IRQ_42514_E.pdf

·      IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: Iraq: Honour-based violence in the Kurdistan region; state protection and support services available to victims [IRQ105424.E], 15 February 2016

·      MRG – Minority Rights Group International/Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights: The Lost Women of Iraq: Family-based violence during armed conflict, 4 November 2015

·      OWFI - Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq; ASUDA; MADRE; HRGJ - Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, City University of New York School of Law; Al-Taqwa Association; Awan Organization; Baghdad Women Association et al.: Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination Against Women and Girls in Iraq, January 2019

·      Rudaw: To kill your daughter in the name of honour, 11 December 2020

·      UNHCR– UN High Commissioner for Refugees: International Protection Considerations with Regard to People Fleeing the Republic of Iraq, May 2019