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  • You see it every day. Sometimes you might amble along and kick one, other times you may pick it up off a sandy beach and throw it into the water. Most of the time, you don’t even notice it. And if you do, it would probably never occur to you that it has been used countless times as a weapon of torture and murder. Not here, not in cloudy, grey, safe old England.

    My brother told me about it first. He’d just stumbled across the story on YouTube. Sometimes that happens, you type in one thing and before you know it you’ve been led to something completely random.
    And of course, despite his stern warning not to, I had to investigate it for myself because one of my worst traits is a morbid curiosity. If you tell me not to look, I’ll be the first to do so. And the upshot is, I simply couldn’t sleep for the horror of what I’d seen.

    Her name was Du’a Khalil Aswad. You may know of her story, you may not, but she was a beautiful 17 year old Kurdish girl of the Yezidi faith. With both Islamic and Zoastrian elements, it’s a religion that stands purely on it’s own. Coming from a Kurdish village rooted in old traditions and seemingly untouched by modern values, this child – only one year younger than my niece – made a fatal mistake. She fell in love with a Muslim boy and consequently brought shame to her clan and her family.
    She fell in love. It’s what every girl hopes and dreams of, to be treasured by someone who loves you not out of obligation but simply because you are you. To be coveted, desired, held precious by another. There is no feeling like it in the world and it’s what millions of women dream of, regardless of faith, race, culture or physical borders.

    For the men of Dua’s village her love was seen as a shameful crime – one that deserved the harshest punishment. Led by her own uncle, 9 men dragged her from the sanctity of her home into the village square. Hundreds of men stood and watched as she was then mercilessly beaten, stamped on and stoned. Her face covered in blood, her battered body a myriad of colours from the incessant pounding of fists and feet, pleading for help… the violence was relentless. Men excitedly filmed the footage on their mobile phones as if taking a family video. They even tore her lower garments away to complete her humiliation. And not one of the howling mob helped her, they cheered. And finally, as her destroyed and mutliated body lay on the floor, perhaps mercifully, a large concrete block was dropped onto her head. 30 minutes of unparalleled brutality. 30 minutes of agony and terror. 30 minutes to die.

    They posted the film on the internet so that the world would know what honourable men they were.

    The resultant backlash was perhaps not what they had expected but Du’a’s brutal death caused international outrage. And that night, as I lay in the arms of the man I loved, I felt like the luckiest girl alive because I was allowed to love without fear. Did she not deserve the same?
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