Spectacles of Honor Spectacles of Honor: Barbarism within Civilized Reactions to Public Killings

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On April 27th 2007 seventeen year old Du’a Khalil Aswad was brutally murdered before a pack of shouting men and police officers in the public streets of her village in Northern Iraq. Du’a was beaten, kicked and stoned to death. What makes Du’aas murder extraordinary is that the crime was captured on mobile phone video by onlookers in the crowd and expediently sent to Utube and CNN for international viewing. Nine months later one can still log on and watch Du’a as she dies. Du’aas murder and dying breath are a public spectacle open to global gaze. The world watches, reacts and evaluates this painful spectacle of femininity, brutality, life and death. This paper looks at the ways that the world reacts, the way that people – Kurds, Iraqis and others – analyze, decipher, construct and evaluate this event.

I argue that the killing of Dua has become the conduit for national guilt, increased religious divisions and a plethora of dichotomized stereotypes; East/West, male/female, Islam/Christian, innocence/guilt – and perhaps most paradoxical given the current occupation of Iraq by western forces – civilized/barbaric. It is the barbarism inherent within stoning a young woman to death that is at the forefront of international criticism of this gendered brutality.


Keywords: Honor Killing, Civilization, Barbarism, Kurdistan, Iraq, Women, ethnic division, religious divisions
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity , Immigration, Refugees, Race, Nation , Sexuality, Gender, Families , Religion, Spirituality
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Spectacles of Honor


Dr. Sandra Phelps

Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Kurdistan Hawler
Arbil, Northern Iraq, Iraq

Sandra Phelps is researching gender and ethnic intolerance within social groups. Sandra teaches Sociological, postcolonial and feminist theories.

Ref: H08P0364