Iraqi Women Protest ‘Honor Killing’ of 22-Year-Old YouTuber Strangled By Her Dad

Tiba Ali's father turned himself into police for having murdered her in her sleep because she wanted to marry her boyfriend and live in Turkey.

Iraqi Women Protest ‘Honor Killing’ of 22-Year-Old YouTuber Strangled By Her Dad
Photo:Hadi Mizban (AP)

Dozens of Iraqis—mostly women—gathered on Sunday to protest the so-called “honor killing” of Tiba Ali, a 22-year-old YouTuber whose dad strangled her in her sleep on Jan. 31. Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said in a statement on Twitter that Ali’s father turned himself into police shortly after murdering her.

Ali lived in Istanbul, Turkey, and documented her life there with her boyfriend, who’s a real estate investor. She had more than 24,000 followers on YouTube. Ali’s vlogs show the pair exploring the city, eating, and having fun at home. Her last video was over two weeks ago.

When visiting her family in Iraq at the end of January, Ali reportedly argued with her father about her life plans—she wanted to stay in Turkey, where she’d been in school, and marry her boyfriend, but her dad strongly disagreed with that idea. The Associated Press reported that “local community police had intervened” in fights between the two on at least one occasion. A women’s rights organization released calls claiming to be from Ali from the night before she was killed, which, according to the AP, seem to show her father hitting her enough to make her scream. (The wire service could not independently verify the recording.)

Multiple laws in Iraq allow for or reduce the sentencing in these supposed “honor killings,” or disciplinary crimes. At least one activist group wants Ali’s death to be the spark for the Iraqi Parliament to pass a bill against domestic violence. “Tiba was killed by her father under tribal justifications that are unacceptable,” Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq told AP.

Domestic violence and other gender-based crimes have been on the rise in Iraq. Just weeks after the covid pandemic shut down much of the world in April 2020, the UN in Iraq urged parliament to tackle gender-based violence bills, citing the increase of domestic violence cases across the country.

“Iraq has failed to criminalize domestic violence despite an increase in reporting of incidents of domestic violence by national NGOs,” said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Shockingly, the Iraqi penal code still treats leniently so called ‘honour crimes’ comprising violent acts such as assault and even murder. There is also no effective system in place for reporting domestic violence nor adequate shelters to protect women and girls.”

Ali’s death is just the latest in gender-based crimes across the region. Mahsa Amini—a 22-year-old Kurd who died in custody of the morality police in Iran after allegedly wearing her hijab improperly—sparked thousands of protesters across Iran to turn out in the streets. At least one estimate from a human rights NGO says nearly 20,000 people have been arrested since the protests began last year.

And it’s not just the Middle East, of course: The United Nations found that Argentina reported a 25 percent increase in domestic violence calls since the 2020 lockdowns started, while Cyprus and Singapore both saw a 30 percent increase. Here in the U.S., the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported an increase in users, too.

Ali’s death is a bleak reminder that gender-based violence is a universal problem, and international human rights groups are stepping up to demand justice for her. “The murder of Tiba Ali must be investigated, the perpetrator brought to justice and the sentence must be commensurate with the gravity of this terrible crime, without recourse to the death penalty,” said Majzoub.

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