A slender, black-haired girl is dragged in a headlock through a braying mob of men. Within seconds, she is on the ground in a fetal position, covering her head in her arms in a futile attempt to fend off a shower of stones.
Someone slams a concrete block onto the back of her head. A river of blood oozes from beneath her long, tangled hair. The girl stops moving, but the kicks and the rocks keep coming, as do the victorious shouts of the men delivering them.
In the eyes of many in her community in northern Iraq, 17-year-old Duaa Khalil Aswad's crime was to love a boy from another religion. She was a Yazidi, an insular religious sect. He was a Sunni Muslim. To Aswad's uncle and cousins, that was reason enough to put her to death last month in the village of Bashiqa.
Women's groups say the video shows Iraq's backward slide as religious and ethnic intolerance takes hold.
"There is a new Taliban controlling the lives of women in Iraq," said Hanaa Edwar, a women's activist with the Iraqi Al-Amal Association a non-governmental group in Baghdad. "I think this story will be absolutely repeated again. I believe if security is not controlled, such stories will be very common."
I think what is most amazing to me is that this doesn't take place in some tent in the middle of the desert or a stone hut. These people are not dressed in tribal garb --- they are wearing jeans and t-shirts and the whole thing takes place in a street in what appears to be a modern town. It isn't the Moqtada al Sadr brigade or Al Qaeda extremists ---it's not part of the civil war although according to the article, many Iraqis are trying to rationalize it as such. This is nothing but barbaric patriarchal violence perpetrated by our alleged allies, the Kurds, toward a teen-age girl:
The story of the stoning still has received relatively little attention in Iraq. The news of the killing of the Yazidi men two weeks later in apparent retaliation for Duaa Aswad's death drew more attention from the local media. Iraqi women say that's a sign of the country's obsession with the sectarian and political implications of violence at the expense of concern about women's rights, and particularly a girl's death.
"I am really sorry that we have turned to processing issues this way," said Ghasan Alyas, a Yazidi teacher living in Bashiqa.
"Some say that external forces are behind what happened," she said, referring to the accusations of Arab meddling. "But I think this is an illusion. The thought of a third party invisibly involved in whatever is happening is just a way of excusing ourselves and our ignorant culture from its responsibilities."
I have to agree with this. It isn't political, at least in the typical sense and it isn't even a result of the invasion, although the chaotic atmosphere surely fuels the behavior. This is the fault of primitive religious fundamentalism, which is across the board, in every culture, contemptuous of women.
This is why I have contempt for tribalism, fundamentalism and authoritarianism. When it gets right down to it, it's always, in the end, about mob rule. A gang of violent bullies, often at the behest of some authority figure, "sends a message" by publicly humiliating, maiming or killing one of their own who had the temerity to fail to properly conform. Whether for God or country or tribe, it's always some poor victim, lying on the ground, covering his or her head, surrounded by people who have turned into animals.
There are a lot of manifestations of this particular human organizational style, some much more sophisticated and stylized. The violence becomes more ritualized and the humiliation takes other forms but underneath it all, the same impulse to dominate drives a fair number of people of all cultures. It's just a matter of degree.
This is the reason why it's so important to preserve our secular, reason-based constitution and fight against this horror of government endorsed torture and indefinite imprisonment. It is a very, very thin line between civilization and barbarism and every step we take away from the rule of law is a step toward becoming that primitive mob of killers. After all, I'm sure they felt justified too.