A 23-year-old transgender woman was killed by her brother in Iraqi Kurdistan as part of a suspected “honor killing,” according to police.
Doski Azad, a makeup artist at a salon in the city of Duhok, was shot to death by her brother, Chakdar Azad, according to a tip police received from a man identifying himself as another of Doski’s brothers on January 31.
Based on that tip, police found the body of Azad, who had been promoting her transition on social media, in the village of Babukhki, 12 miles north of Duhok. No arrests have been made, and her brother has fled the country, according to Ekurd Daily.
Duhok Governate is considered the most conservative province in Iraqi Kurdistan, and family honor is deeply valued. As a result, those who do not conform to societal or religious norms or mores, including members of the LGBTQ community, are often subjected to violence, discrimination, arrests, and even so-called “honor killings” depending on the severity of their infraction.
Last year, Kurdish security forces in Sulaymaniyah arrested eight gay men and forced them to undergo physical examinations — which are often used to determine whether someone has engaged in penetrative anal sex, despite being based on flawed science. Government officials later claimed the men were not targeted and that the police raid was a “crackdown on prostitution,” according to Voice of America News.
Azad, who left home more than five years ago, had reportedly received multiple threats from her family because of her gender identity and her decision to transition.
“She left the house five to six years ago, I had not seen her ever since,” Dlovan Sadiq, an uncle of Azad’s told Rudaw Media Group. “Doski made a mistake.”
“She was threatened multiple times, not just by her instant family but also distant relatives from their tribe,” a friend of Azad’s said. “She told me that her father had taken her ID and passport, but she seemed to have received it back because she spent New Year’s in Dubai.”
Azad had previously tried to consult with police about the threats against her, but was advised to leave the city for her own safety.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Chakdar Azad, who allegedly fled the country on January 30. However, Azad, who lives in Germany, did not travel through the Kurdistan Region’s airports, but drove north into Turkey to avoid detection by authorities, a source told Rudaw Media Group.
The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, the Iraqi Kurdish capital, condemned Azad’s murder, saying in a statement: “We categorically condemn this violence and the discrimination that is undoubtedly at the root of this crime. We ask the authorities to thoroughly investigate this murder and prosecute the perpetrator to the fullest extent of the law.”
LGBTQ rights activists say conservative values shouldn’t be used as an excuse for violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
“These people are born this way, so society must accept them the way they are,” Abdulrahman Bamerni, a Duhok-based human rights advocate, told VOA News. “You can’t kill someone just because he or she is different from you.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!