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Death of Transgender Woman Sparks Outcry in Iraq’s Kurdistan

A map showing Duhok and other cities in Iraq.
A map showing Duhok and other cities in Iraq.

The death of a 23-year-old transgender woman in the Kurdish city of Duhok has triggered outrage by rights activists and diplomats in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Doski Azad was killed Monday, reportedly by her brother, who has apparently fled the country. Kurdish media have described Azad as a victim of a so-called honor killing.

Local authorities said they were investigating the case.

“Our investigation so far suggests that Doski Azad was killed by her brother at a location just outside the city before he managed to flee crime scene,” said Hemin Suleiman, a spokesman for the Duhok police, adding that the victim was killed by a handgun.

He told VOA that an arrest warrant had been issued for the suspect, who reportedly lives in Germany.

Honor killings are common in Iraq, including in the semiautonomous Kurdish region, but rights groups say the LGBTQ community has particularly been discriminated against by the largely conservative population.

Hayfa Doski, a women’s rights activist in Duhok, said the killing has sounded an alarm among different communities.

“But transgender people in particular have been gravely concerned about this killing,” she told VOA. “They already feel discriminated against in our society and attacks like this only exacerbate those fears.”

She said many people have taken to social media to express their fears following this week’s killing.

The U.S. Consulate in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, issued a statement on Thursday condemning the killing and urging local “authorities to investigate the murder and prosecute the perpetrator to the fullest extent of the law.”

Rights activists in the Kurdistan region say conservative values shouldn’t be an excuse for the society to tolerate discrimination and violent crimes against members of the LGBTQ community.

“These people are born this way, so society must accept them the way they are,” said Abdulrahman Bamerni, a Duhok-based human rights advocate. “You can’t kill someone just because he or she is different from you.”

Sirwan Kajjo contributed to this report, which originated in VOA’s Kurdish Service.