Sun, May 04, 2008 - Page 13 News List

Killed for daring to hope

When 17-year-old Rand Abdel-Qader met a British soldier, she dreamed ofromance. Months later she was murdered in a savage‘honor killing’ by her father

By Afif Sarhan, Mark Townsend and Caroline Davies  /  THE GUARDIAN , BASRA AND LONDON

A British soldier from 1st Battalion Scots Guards speaks with a group of Iraqis during a patrol in the Basra area.

PHOTO :AFP

Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, told her closest friend that she was in love from the moment she set eyes on the young British soldier working alongside her in Basra, and she dreamed of a future with him.

It was an innocent infatuation, but five months after Rand, a student of English at Basra University, met Paul, a 22-year-old soldier posted to southern Iraq, she was dead. She was stamped on, suffocated and stabbed by her father. Several brutal knife wounds punctured her slender, bruised body — from her face to her feet. He had done it, he proclaimed to the neighbors who soon gathered round, to “cleanse his honor.”

And as Rand was put into the ground, without ceremony, her uncles spat on her covered corpse because she had brought shame on the family. Her crime was the worst they could possibly imagine — she had fallen in love with a British soldier and dared to talk to him in public.

Rand was murdered in March. That the relationship was innocent was no defense. She had been seen conversing intimately with Paul. It was enough to condemn her, because he was British, a Christian, “the invader,” and the enemy. The two met while he was helping to deliver relief aid to displaced families in the city and she was working as a volunteer. They continued to meet through their relief work in the following months.

Rand last saw Paul in January, two months before her death. It was only on March 16 that her father, Abdel-Qader Ali, learned of their friendship. He was told by a friend, who worked closely with police, that Rand had been seen with Paul at one of the places they both worked as volunteers. Enraged, he headed straight home to demand an explanation from his daughter.

The British in Basra:

Unopposed British forces enter Basra, Iraq’s third largest city, on March 21, 2003. Residents welcome them.

During the following weeks the outskirts of the city see some of the heaviest fighting during the invasion of Iraq. UK forces led on foot by units of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment take the city in early April.

Hopes that warm smiles and berets (the campaign to win hearts and minds) would be sufficient soon dissipate as soldiers encounter fierce insurgency.

Last September, the last British troops are withdraw from central Basra to an air base outside the city, with 168 service personnel, at that stage, having lost their lives trying to bring peace to the city.

Three months later the UK formally hands control of Basra province over to the Iraqi authorities.

British forces become directly involved in recent fighting in Basra, as clashes continue between the Iraqi army and militiamen of the Mahdi army.

Four thousand British personnel will remain in Basra for the foreseeable future after the UK government announced last week it had abandoned plans to withdraw 1,500 troops from the city.

— The Guardian


“When he entered the house, his eyes were bloodshot and he was trembling,” said Rand’s mother, Leila Hussein, tears streaming down her face as she recalled her daughter’s murder. “I got worried and tried to speak to him but he headed straight for our daughter’s room and he started to yell at her.”

“He asked if it was true that she was having an affair with a British soldier. She started to cry. She was nervous and desperate. He got hold of her hair and started thumping her again and again.

“I screamed and called out for her two brothers so they could get their father away from her. But when he told them the reason, instead of saving her they helped him end her life,” she said.

She said Ali used his feet to press down hard on his own daughter’s throat until she was suffocated. Then he called for a knife and began to cut at her body. All the time he was calling out that his honor was being cleansed.

“I just couldn’t stand it. I fainted,” recalled Leila. “I woke up in a blur later with dozens of neighbors at home and the local police.”

According to Leila, her husband was initially arrested. “But he was released two hours later because it was an ‘honor killing.’ And, unfortunately, that is something to be proud of for any Iraqi man.”

At the police station where the father was held Sergeant Ali Jabbar said last week: “Not much can be done when we have an ‘honor killing’ case. You are in a Muslim society and women should live under religious laws.

“The father has very good contacts inside the Basra government and it wasn’t hard for him to be released and what he did to be forgotten. Sorry but I cannot say more about the case.”

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