Many Americans who are unmarried
complain about marital status discrimination in employment,
housing, insurance, and taxes, as well as the failure of federal
law to protect them from such business practices. And
their complaints are justified.
But the financial hardships
experienced by many single people in the United States pale in
comparison to the manner in which the unmarried are treated in
According to a recent
story in The Times of London about human rights violations
against unmarried residents of northern Iraq, some "598 women
have been burnt, beaten, shot, strangled, thrown from tall
buildings, force-fed with lethal drugs, crushed by vehicles,
drowned, decapitated or made to kill themselves so far this
year, exceeding the 553 recorded for the whole of 2006."
This is in addition to the torture
and killing of an unspecified number of unmarried men.
And just what have these single
people done to merit such cruel and inhuman treatment? Being
seen in public with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a young woman
refusing to enter into an arranged marriage with an old man
selected by her father.
Several months ago I wrote a column about unmarried people
experiencing human rights abuses in many parts of the world.
need global human rights monitor.) But when I read the
new story in The Times, I knew that the problem in Iraq needed
The story in
The Times was prompted by the so-called "honor" killing of Du'aa
Aswad, a 17 year-old girl in northern Iraq, by her relatives and
other angry villagers.
According to the story, "Du’aa
was stoned to death by a mob in the Kurdish hillside village of
Basshiqa, northern Iraq, after being found with her 19-year-old
boyfriend, Muhannad Ummayad, in an olive grove." The two
never had intimate relations, as an autopsy of Du'aa would later
Mobile phone video
clips taken at the time of the mob's attack on Du'aa show her
being taken from a village leader's home in a headlock,
resisting and screaming as police watched in silence. In
the marketplace, she was stoned to death by the mob.
The story explains that even though
the method of stoning rarely occurs, "honor killing is rampant,
particularly in Kurdish areas of Iraq and Iran. Kurdish women
are killed almost every day for 'dishonouring' their families."
To evade a 2002 law against honor
killings -- a law which is rarely enforced -- perpetrators often
force unmarried women to kill themselves, making it appear to be
an accident or a suicide.
But those who die are the tip of the iceberg, because there are
untold numbers of unmarried women who flee from their homes and
towns in order to escape from the threat of violence.
Hala Jabir, author of the story
in The Times, tells how 12 unmarried women are hiding in a
secret location in Iraq in order to avoid being victims.
One victim explained that she
fled her home when her father ordered her to marry an old man.
Her boyfriend was shot to death by her father and brother.
Another young woman did follow
orders to marry an old man, but later was discovered to be
speaking with her former boyfriend. She fled after her
nose was cut off and his ear was severed.
The solution to the problem of
"honor" killings is evasive.
None of the few perpetrators of
these crimes who are imprisoned expressed any remorse when they
were interviewed by Hala Jabir.
And social acceptance of "honor"
killings is prevalent in many parts of Iraq. Families who
do not go along with the practice are ostracized and themselves
become a target of violence.
So, for now, the most that a human
rights advocate for the unmarried can do is to shed further
light on the problem and hope that international condemnation of
such practices will grow stronger and louder.
To read other editions of
Column One, click here.
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and