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Iraqi Kurdistan struggles to end violence against women

Despite millions of dollars spent on combating violence against women in Iraqi Kurdistan, the phenomenon is still common in the region and the number of victims continues to rise.
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Shaima was 17 years old and entering her junior year in school in Erbil. Her mother, who was worried about family "honor," often challenged her daughter in heated discussions. Eventually, Shaima's family barred her from going to school. Around 4 p.m. on Oct. 30, the neighbors heard gunshots coming from Shaima’s house. “This is not your business,” Shaima’s mother, who was outside the house, told concerned neighbors. The family claimed that Shaima had committed suicide, but it soon became evident that her younger brother had murdered her with an AK-47, allegedly over possession of a mobile phone. When her body was examined, there were gunshots to her hands, head and chest, and it appeared to Erbil police spokesman Maj. Hoger Aziz that, out of her innocence, Shaima had covered her face with her hands thinking that she could protect herself against the bullets from the barrel of her brother’s weapon.

Shaima is but one of many girls and women who often die in "mysterious circumstances": They are burned alive in an "accidental fire," savagely stabbed with a knife, killed by a bullet or simply thrown off of a cliff. The faces of the murdered women are often disfigured so that the police cannot track the murderers down. But even those killers who are caught by police sometimes go free if they are influential or know people who are influential.

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