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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

Men of Honour

by Lily Hamourtziadou

18 May 2008

Two weeks after The Observer revealed the shocking story of Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, murdered because of her infatuation with a British soldier in Basra, southern Iraq, her father is defiant. Sitting in the front garden of his well-kept home in the city's Al-Fursi district, he remains a free man, despite having stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed his student daughter to death.

Abdel-Qader, 46, a government employee, was initially arrested but released after two hours. Astonishingly, he said, police congratulated him on what he had done. 'They are men and know what honour is,' he said.

Rand, who was studying English at Basra University, was deemed to have brought shame on her family after becoming infatuated with a British soldier, 22, known only as Paul.

‘I know God is blessing me for what I did,' Abdel-Qader said, his voice swelling with pride (The Observer 12 May).

Men of honour. Men who sacrifice those weaker than themselves for their own sense of power and control, calling their crimes ‘honourable’.

What does ‘honour’ mean? It means respect, esteem. It also means having a sense of shame: a sense of personal shame, not a readiness to judge and shame others who disagree with you. Honour means judging and checking one’s own actions, having a sense of personal responsibility towards what is right and good, feeling under a moral obligation to do the right thing, not to inflict suffering –death even- on those you think are not doing so.

Honour is not the crushing of those who cannot defend themselves. Honour is not found in the pride and arrogance of one who believes himself the executor of God’s will, while viewing those different than himself as devils.

There was more talk of honour this week.

U.S. military commanders have apologised to community leaders in Iraq after a U.S. soldier used a copy of the Koran for shooting practice, fearing an outburst of anger among U.S.-allied tribesmen.

The U.S. television news network CNN said Major-General Jeffery Hammond, the commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad, and other officers were met by hundreds of protesters when they went to Radwaniya to deliver the apology on Saturday.

"I am a man of honour, I am a man of character. You have my word this will never happen again," Hammond told the crowd, CNN reported.
Colonel Bill Buckner, a U.S. military spokesman, described the shooting incident as "serious and deeply troubling" (Reuters 18 May)

He is a ‘man of honour’ who respects the Koran. Yes, and he is also a ‘man of honour’ belonging to the world’s most powerful army that kills innocents at will. Or does it kill them honourably? It is nice of him to apologise for the desecration of a holy book, but where is the apology for the killing of thousands of civilians? Where is the shame over that?

‘Honour’ is a word and a concept very much abused these days. During the past week over 160 civilians were killed in Iraq, 15 of them by US forces. Among those killed were 21 children –killed by roadside bombs, mortars, gunfire… by men who would and do call themselves ‘men of honour.’ Iraqis, Americans, British, Middle Eastern… people of various nationalities and faiths, people who think themselves honourable and commit atrocities at the altar of honour.

The truth is there is nothing honourable about having the blood of innocents on your hands. Whoever you are. Whether you are a religious fanatic, a proud nationalist, a dutiful soldier, a devout Christian/Muslim or a suicide bomber. There is neither bravery nor honour in the killing of the weak, of the poor and the defenceless. It is only easy.