- Author, Jim O’Reilly
- Role, digital reporter
Iraqi YouTuber Taiba Al-Ali, a vibrant and energetic young woman, has achieved great success with her entertaining videos in which she talks about her life.
Al-Ali founded her YouTube channel after moving from her homeland, Iraq, to Turkey at the age of 17, in 2017, and she posted videos about her daily life, her independence, her fiancé, makeup, and other things. She looked happy and attracted tens of thousands of subscribers.
Taiba Al-Ali returned to Iraq last January to visit her family and was killed by her father. However, the murder was not considered “premeditated murder” and her father was sentenced to only six months in prison.
Taiba’s killing sparked protests across Iraq over its laws relating to so-called “honour killings”, and the case shed light on how women are treated in a country where conservative customs still prevail.
“strangled in her sleep”
Taiba has built an online following of more than 20,000 subscribers, a number that has swelled since her death.
Al-Ali posted videos and enjoyed the new lifestyle Turkey gave her. In her first video in November 2021, Taiba said she moved to improve her education, but chose to stay because she enjoyed life there.
Tayeb Ali, Tabiah’s father, reportedly strangled her to death while she was sleeping on January 31. Then he turned himself in to the police.
A member of the local government where Taiba was killed said her father was sentenced to a short prison sentence in April.
In the wake of Taiba’s killing, hundreds of women took to the streets in Iraq to protest legislation on honor killings.
The Iraqi Penal Code allows killing under the name “honor killings” as a mitigation method for violent crimes committed against family members, according to an analysis by the Ministry of Interior.
The law allows for reduced sentences for “honour killings” due to provocation or if the accused has “honour-related motives.”
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman, Major General Saad Maan, told the BBC: “An accident occurred involving Taiba al-Ali. From the perspective of the law, it is a criminal incident, and from another point of view, it is an honor killing incident.”
Major General Maan said that Taiba and her father had a heated discussion between them during her stay in Iraq. He further explained that the police had tried to intervene the day before her death. When asked about the authorities’ response to this murder, Major General Maan said, “The security forces dealt with the case with the highest standards of professionalism and applied the law.
He added, “They launched a preliminary and judicial investigation, collected all the evidence, and referred the file to the judiciary to issue a ruling.”
Taiba’s killing, and her father’s reduced sentence, sparked outrage among Iraqi women and women’s rights activists around the world about the lack of protection from domestic violence for women and girls under Iraqi law.
For example, in Article 41 of the Iraqi Penal Code, “punishment of a wife by her husband” and “discipline by parents…of children subject to their authority within certain limits” are legal rights.
While Article 409 states: “Whoever is surprised by his wife red-handed committing adultery, or finds his girlfriend in bed with her lover, and kills them on the spot, or kills one of them, or assaults one of them to death, or causes any of them a permanent disability, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years.”
Women’s rights activist Dr. Laila Hussein told the BBC: “These killings are often rooted in hatred of women and the desire to control their bodies and behavior.”
She also said: “Using the term ‘honour killings’ can be harmful to victims and their families.” “It reinforces the idea that they are somehow responsible for their death, and that they brought it upon themselves by doing something wrong or shameful.”
The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women and girls around the world are killed by their family members every year in “honor killings.”
“This has to stop”
Five days after Taiba’s death, Iraqi security forces prevented 20 activists from demonstrating in front of the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad.
They raised signs reading, “Stop killing women” and “Stop (Article) 409,” and chanted: “There is no honor in the crime of killing women.”
Roaa Khalaf, an Iraqi activist and human rights defender, said: “Iraqi law is in great need of improvement, amendment and harmonization with international conventions.”
She also said that the sentence issued against Taiba’s father was “unjust,” and that she considers such cases evidence of “provisions and legislation that violate women’s rights.”
“They need to find a solution,” said Hanan Abdul Khaleq, an Iraqi women’s rights advocate. “This must stop. Killing women has become too simple.”
Other activists on social media also pointed out that Taiba’s killing was not an isolated incident, and that many “honour killings” went unreported.
This murder sparked discussions about stricter laws to protect women in the country and abroad.
Ala Talabani, head of the National Front for the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said: “Women in our societies are hostage to reactionary customs due to the absence of a legal deterrent and government measures that are currently disproportionate to the extent of domestic violence.”
Talabani called on her fellow male and female representatives to pass a draft law to combat domestic violence, which clearly protects family members from acts of violence, including murder and serious bodily harm.
The United Nations Mission in Iraq said the “abhorrent killing” of Taybeh was “a sad reminder of the violence and injustice that still exists against women and girls in Iraq today”.
Ala Talabani also called on the Iraqi government to “support laws and policies aimed at preventing violence against women and girls, and to take all necessary measures to address impunity by ensuring that all perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice and the rights of women and girls are protected.” .
For many, Taiba’s story has highlighted outdated laws that fail to protect women from harm and gender-based violence around the world.
But to others, she is just another example of what is too often covered up and of the thousands before her whose story has never been told.