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Suicide in Iraq … the Cover-Up for Femecide and a Escape from Poverty and Extortion

Ahmad Al Rabihi and Hassan Al Nassiri
Iraqi Journalists
September 8, 2020
The Iraqi police received a report recently of a bride's suicide one day after her marriage, found hanging from a rope bound from the ceiling of her room ... This investigation reveals the reasons for the escalation of suicides in Iraq, as well as how many murders of women end up recorded as suicides.

On a sandalwood chair, in a small room at his grandmother’s house on the outskirts of al-Shatrah town, Ismael (29 years old) was found unconscious, his body bent over, with his head almost touching the ground. This was after he had swallowed around 50 pills, including some blood pressure medication.On a sandalwood chair, in a small room at his grandmother’s house on the outskirts of al-Shatrah town, Ismael (29 years old) was found unconscious, his body bent over, with his head almost touching the ground. This was after he had swallowed around 50 pills, including some blood pressure medication.

Ismael spent his night thinking about the way he would take his own life. “I knew I didn’t dare shoot myself using my father’s (Webley) English-made revolver. That’s when I decided to open my grandmother’s medicine cabinet and take the pills.”

Owing to the proximity of al-Shatrah public hospital to his grandmother’s house in the orchard on the outskirts of the city (46 km northern Nasiriyah), and to the fact that his family discovered the accident quickly, they were able to rescue him, when his father and younger brother rushed him to the hospital. 

That date has been engraved in Ismael’s memory, “It was dawn, on December 21, 2017… I thought I would wake up to find myself in the other world, but I opened my eyes to the voice of the male nurse Sajjad slapping me in the face… then I realized that I had failed to take my own life.”

This suicide attempt is one of many , occurring at an unprecedented rate in the Dhi Qar governate in Iraq for years. A few days after his, the provincial police received another report about a 15-year-old girl who had also committed suicide, one day after her marriage.

On June 28, 2017, Imam Hussein hospital received the body of M.Kh, a 30-year-old man who hanged himself in his house in Nasiriyah. On July 1, 2019, the Dhi Qar police command announced that they had found the body of another young man who had committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree, in the north of the city.

Ismael spent his night thinking about the way he would take his own life. “I knew I didn’t dare shoot myself using my father’s (Webley) English-made revolver. That’s when I decided to open my grandmother’s medicine cabinet and take the pills.”

Owing to the proximity of al-Shatrah public hospital to his grandmother’s house in the orchard on the outskirts of the city (46 km northern Nasiriyah), and to the fact that his family discovered the accident quickly, they were able to rescue him, when his father and younger brother rushed him to the hospital. 

That date has been engraved in Ismael’s memory, “It was dawn, on December 21, 2017… I thought I would wake up to find myself in the other world, but I opened my eyes to the voice of the male nurse Sajjad slapping me in the face… then I realized that I had failed to take my own life.”

This suicide attempt is one of many , occurring at an unprecedented rate in the Dhi Qar governate in Iraq for years. A few days after his, the provincial police received another report about a 15-year-old girl who had also committed suicide, one day after her marriage.

On June 28, 2017, Imam Hussein hospital received the body of M.Kh, a 30-year-old man who hanged himself in his house in Nasiriyah. On July 1, 2019, the Dhi Qar police command announced that they had found the body of another young man who had committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree, in the north of the city.

Southern Iraq: Poverty and Unemployment

In the cities of southern Iraq, where rampant rates of unemployment and poverty exceed 40%, and under the circumstances of social customs, constraints, and early marriage, hundreds of suicide cases are documented yearly, most of which take place due to the pressures of difficult living and psychological conditions. On the other hand, some crimes are homicides committed for different motives, including the murder of women (or what is known as honor or shame killing) and are documented as suicide, while others are related to the cyber extortion of some women, according to civil activists and researchers.

Statements and reports made by state agencies and non-governmental organizations in Iraq show that suicide cases made a noticeable increase during the past few years under the aggravating social issues, and in conjunction with the absence of effective Rule of Law, in favor of the tribal emerging power after 2003.

On the other hand, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights IHCHR confirmed in the statistics included in its report that more than 3,000 suicide cases were recorded between 2015 – 2017 from all over the country, except for the Kurdistan region. While Dhi Qar governorate, on which this investigation focuses, recorded the highest suicide rates during the same period, and the following year (2018) recorded a 60% rise in them compared to the previous years.

Social Constraints and Poverty 

With his knitted eyebrows and a confused gaze in his brown eyes, Ismael hosted us in his Baghdad-based office, where he works as a news editor for a news agency. He was meeting us to tell us about his experience with suicide, which shocked his friends and family, who were taken aback by the desire of an ambitious young man like him, to take his own life.

He paused for a while then added, “Not to mention the poor living conditions of my family that made me feel hopeless and desperate… During my study at Dhi Qar University, sometimes I could not afford to buy a meal with my friends … At that time, I found that the only way to salvation was by committing suicide.”

The southern governorates, except for Basra, continue to rank high in poverty and unemployment rates compared to the rest of the country in the past few years, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Planning. In a country reeling from political deterioration, having witnessed internal fighting and then a devastating war waged against ISIS, in which tens of thousands of young men participated, all this turmoil was mirrored into the Iraqi social stability, according to researchers and activists.

According to the World Health Organization, every year, more than 800 thousand people die due to suicide all over the world, and three times those numbers are documented from suicide attempts, and about 79% of suicide cases in the world are documented in low and middle-income countries.

Few but Alarming Figures

A study of the Research Center of the Iraqi Council of Representatives published in 2014 entitled “The Prevalence of Suicide Cases in Iraq- Causes and Proposals” showed that 1,532 suicide cases were documented between the period 2003-2013, in light of the “Supreme Judicial Council” statistics. Furthermore, upon comparing these figures with those of the HCHR for the period of 2015-2017, which amounted to more than 3000 cases, it was clear that suicide cases have doubled over several times.

It is worth mentioning that, the number of suicide cases continued to increase year after year, as 2013 recorded the highest rate of suicide cases with 439 suicides, followed by 2012 with 276 suicides, then 2011 with 253 cases, 2010 with 161 cases, 2008 with 103 cases, then 2009 with 95 cases, then in 2007 with 64 cases, 2006 with 51 cases, 2005 with 46 cases, 2004 with 31 cases, and 2003 with 13 cases, according to the statistics of the Supreme Judicial Council.

A study published by the House of Representatives, showed that the total number of suicides, according to the Ministry of Interior’s statistics, reached 906 cases for the same period (2003-2013).

Even with the assertion of some state authorities that some cases were not documented from 2004 to 2008, owing to the internal fighting and security chaos, which could not be called to question with the surge in the figures year after year. By comparing these figures with the statistics of suicide cases in neighboring countries such as Jordan, and taking into consideration the population (40 million in Iraq, 10.5 million in Jordan) the figures in Iraq would still be higher to a double of these figures. 283 suicides were recorded in Jordan from 2015 to 2017, with 113 cases in 2015, 40 suicides in 2016, and 130 suicides in 2017, according to the official statistics of the Criminal Information Department in Public Security.

Dhi Qar” is a Hot Spot

Dhi Qar governorate (375 km south of the capital Baghdad), with a population of 2.5 million people, is one of the provinces with a very tribal and religious character. Despite being an oil governorate, with a big number of large fields, it suffers rampant rates of unemployment. Its poverty rate reached 44% before the “Coronavirus” crisis, which arrived and worsened the situation, according to the figures of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning.

Statistics obtained by our reporter on the number of suicides in Dhi Qar, varied widely between the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on one hand, and the forensic medicine in Nasiriyah and its local government officials, on the other.

According to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 225 people died due to suicide in 2017 and 2018, across Dhi Qar governorate, at a rate of 9.3 suicide cases per month, 142 of which were in 2017 and 83 in 2018 respectively.

In gender-specific detail, 2017 witnessed the suicide of 50 males and 92 females, and in 2018 the numbers decreased to 36 males and 47 females.

The statistics of the Forensic Medicine Department of Dhi Qar Health Directorate and the official statistics of local government obtained by our reporter were in lower rates than that of the HCHR, where the Forensic Medicine Department registered 97 suicides between 2017 and 2018, 43 cases in 2017 and 54 cases in 2018.

According to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 225 people died due to suicide in 2017 and 2018, across Dhi Qar governorate, at a rate of 9.3 suicide cases per month, 142 of which were in 2017 and 83 in 2018 respectively.

In gender-specific detail, 2017 witnessed the suicide of 50 males and 92 females, and in 2018 the numbers decreased to 36 males and 47 females.

The statistics of the Forensic Medicine Department of Dhi Qar Health Directorate and the official statistics of local government obtained by our reporter were in lower rates than that of the HCHR, where the Forensic Medicine Department registered 97 suicides between 2017 and 2018, 43 cases in 2017 and 54 cases in 2018.

In the cities of southern Iraq, where rampant rates of unemployment and poverty exceed 40%, and under the circumstances of social customs, constraints, and early marriage, hundreds of suicide cases are documented yearly, most of which take place due to the pressures of difficult living and psychological conditions.

Former governor of Dhi Qar, Adel al-Dekheili, who held the position of the head of suicide cell in the governorate before his resignation due to public protests, declared that the governorate had registered 98 suicide cases during 2017 and 2018, 46 of which took place in 2017 and 52 in 2018. The gender-specific data for the two latter statistics are missing, as the concerned authorities refused to declare them.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 32 cases during the first half of 2019, 19 of which were males, and 14 were females.

These statistics come out despite some ambiguity or lack of transparency- especially from governmental institutions – about the real numbers of suicide cases, and the attempt of those authorities to cover up negative social phenomena, such as suicide, incest, and high rates of drug abuse, with different arguments.

Former governor of Dhi Qar, Adel al-Dekheili, who held the position of the head of suicide cell in the governorate before his resignation due to public protests, declared that the governorate had registered 98 suicide cases during 2017 and 2018, 46 of which took place in 2017 and 52 in 2018. The gender-specific data for the two latter statistics are missing, as the concerned authorities refused to declare them.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 32 cases during the first half of 2019, 19 of which were males, and 14 were females.

These statistics come out despite some ambiguity or lack of transparency- especially from governmental institutions – about the real numbers of suicide cases, and the attempt of those authorities to cover up negative social phenomena, such as suicide, incest, and high rates of drug abuse, with different arguments.

Numbers are More than Declared

This is what the Iraqi Ministry of Planning spokesman Abdul-Zahra Al-Hindawi confirmed, who indicated that the Central Statistical Organization, which is responsible for statistical operations for all parts of the country in all fields and affiliated to the Ministry, “Has no documented data or statistics on suicide in Iraq.” Hindawi also calls in question the existence of “Accurate data about suicide in Iraq,” and confirms that “The numbers and statistics that are published are much lower than the true numbers.”

The Shiite religious authority in Najaf, through its representative in Karbala, Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalai, confirmed during Friday Sermon on June 7, 2019, that “The prevalence of suicide in Iraq is a sign of a troubled society and deficient state institutions,” calling for “The political system and the country’s rulers to show mercy towards the people,” noting that, “Suicide is everyone’s responsibility, and society should be established and preserved from perils.”

A Bride Commits Suicide One Day After her Wedding

In January 2018 in Nasiriyah, police received a report of a bride’s suicide one day after her marriage, where she was found hanging by a rope from the ceiling of her room.

A year before that accident, 15-year-old Naba’ Wa’d was raped by a man from her neighborhood, who was 15 years older than her. He lured her to his house while she was on her way back home from school. This triggered her family, upon discovering the incident, to attack the rapist’s house in what is called a “Tribal Raid”, using light and medium weapons.

After the two parties had agreed, the girl’s family and the rapist’s tribe, that the latter would pay 42 million Iraqi dinars (about $35,000), as blood money paid for reconciliation, and marriage was imposed between Naba’ and her rapist.

In January 2018 in Nasiriyah, police received a report of a bride’s suicide one day after her marriage, where she was found hanging by a rope from the ceiling of her room.

A year before that accident, 15-year-old Naba’ Wa’d was raped by a man from her neighborhood, who was 15 years older than her. He lured her to his house while she was on her way back home from school. This triggered her family, upon discovering the incident, to attack the rapist’s house in what is called a “Tribal Raid”, using light and medium weapons.

After the two parties had agreed, the girl’s family and the rapist’s tribe, that the latter would pay 42 million Iraqi dinars (about $35,000), as blood money paid for reconciliation, and marriage was imposed between Naba’ and her rapist.

Naba’ totally refused the idea of marriage, but she was forced to accept by her family and uncles. The marriage ended hours later, as she preferred to end her life instead of living with her rapist.

Our reporters were not able to obtain many details about Naba’s life after the rape incident, or the way she was treated by her family, due to the social restrictions.

A Repetitive Scene in Kurdistan

High suicide rates are not limited to southern Iraq, where there is unemployment, poverty, and social conservatism, or to the center of Iraq. In Kurdistan Province of northern Iraq, things are not much different, despite the better economic conditions and the comparatively more open society.

The general directorate for combating violence against women in Kurdistan registered 328 cases of suicide among women alone in 2018, in the 3 governorates of the province. In 73 of those cases, a sharp object, hanging rope or poison were used, 145 were women set on fire for unknown reasons, while 110 set themselves on fire intending to end their lives, during the same period.

During the first half of 2019, 189 cases were registered by the directorate, 32 of which happened in different ways, 99 were arson, while 58 burned themselves.

Meanwhile, a statistic by “Kurdistan Men Union” showed that in 2018, 115 cases of suicide among men were registered, due to social and economic crises that happened in the region.

Apart from suicide cases, local organizations concerned with the situation of the Yazidi people reported that more than 150 Yazidi women (Old and young women) committed suicide as a result of the horrific sexual violence they were subjected to by ISIS militants, following their invasion of the Yazidi areas of Sinjar (80 km west of Mosul) on August 3, 2014.

In the absence of official numbers, activists who follow up the suicide cases in the Yazidi community estimate their number to be more than 200 during the years that followed the ISIS attack, “Due to their difficult living and psychological conditions following the genocide and the displacement.”

During the first half of 2019, 189 cases were registered by the directorate, 32 of which happened in different ways, 99 were arson, while 58 burned themselves.

Meanwhile, a statistic by “Kurdistan Men Union” showed that in 2018, 115 cases of suicide among men were registered, due to social and economic crises that happened in the region.

Apart from suicide cases, local organizations concerned with the situation of the Yazidi people reported that more than 150 Yazidi women (Old and young women) committed suicide as a result of the horrific sexual violence they were subjected to by ISIS militants, following their invasion of the Yazidi areas of Sinjar (80 km west of Mosul) on August 3, 2014.

In the absence of official numbers, activists who follow up the suicide cases in the Yazidi community estimate their number to be more than 200 during the years that followed the ISIS attack, “Due to their difficult living and psychological conditions following the genocide and the displacement.”

 Murders Covered As Suicides

After more than a year and a half of pleadings, submissions, and 16 hearings, Sulaymaniyah Court rendered a decision on 11th August 2020 stating the execution of D. M., husband of Siwan Kader (23) who has been burnt to death with three of her children in Chamchamal in mid-December 2018.

 The case was initially considered a suicide or a fire incident, but Siwan’s family desperately could proof that it was not a suicide, but a homicide planned and executed by the victim’s husband.

 Hours before her death of burns, Siwan demanded that her case will not be closed as a suicide, and said: “My husband did it, he must be punished for this.. I will never forgive him nor anyone who helped him in his crime, please, for God’s sake, do not close the case.”

 The husband had intentionally erupted a fire in his home, and claimed that he was at work, resulting in the murder of his wife along with three of his children of ages from one to five years old.

 In front of the courthouse, Siwan’s father appealed to the Presidency of Kurdistan Region to ratify the sentence without any delay, while her mother said” “please, promptly execute him, I have been dying every day for two years.”

Activist Laila Hassan says: “Siwan’s family’s desperate refusal of the tribal reconciliation and their stand against the pressure they experienced to close the case helped to solve the case. This case could have been documented as a suicide, as many other cases.”

She added: “many suicides all over Iraq are documented as suicides due to social reasons or to avoid tribal conflicts.”

After more than a year and a half of pleadings, submissions, and 16 hearings, Sulaymaniyah Court rendered a decision on 11th August 2020 stating the execution of D. M., husband of Siwan Kader (23) who has been burnt to death with three of her children in Chamchamal in mid-December 2018.

 The case was initially considered a suicide or a fire incident, but Siwan’s family desperately could proof that it was not a suicide, but a homicide planned and executed by the victim’s husband.

 Hours before her death of burns, Siwan demanded that her case will not be closed as a suicide, and said: “My husband did it, he must be punished for this.. I will never forgive him nor anyone who helped him in his crime, please, for God’s sake, do not close the case.”

 The husband had intentionally erupted a fire in his home, and claimed that he was at work, resulting in the murder of his wife along with three of his children of ages from one to five years old.

 In front of the courthouse, Siwan’s father appealed to the Presidency of Kurdistan Region to ratify the sentence without any delay, while her mother said” “please, promptly execute him, I have been dying every day for two years.”

Activist Laila Hassan says: “Siwan’s family’s desperate refusal of the tribal reconciliation and their stand against the pressure they experienced to close the case helped to solve the case. This case could have been documented as a suicide, as many other cases.”

She added: “many suicides all over Iraq are documented as suicides due to social reasons or to avoid tribal conflicts.”

Days after Siwan’s case has been closed, S.M (19) in Kirkuk committed suicide after being beaten by her husband and mother in law.

S.M, who had been married for 0nly 9 months, accused her husband and mother in law of pushing her to commit suicide. Hours before she died, she said, in a voice recording, “My husband beat me.. he wants to marry another woman, and his mother encouraged him.”

The victim’s mother said that her daughter was not putting any clothes on when she was burnt: “On that day, when she was beaten by her husband and mother in law, and when she threatened of burning herself and spilled gasoline over her body, her mother in law gave her the lighter to start the fire.”

Judges and activists of the civil society keep warning that many suicides are actually homicide crimes being covered under the cloak of suicides.

Judge Nazdar Merza- during a forum on the phenomenon of Suicides – said that most of the suicides he reviewed over two decades in courts are “basically homicide crimes.”

Femecide

Sociologist Dr. Ali Taher Al-Hamoud doubts the highly increased number of women suicides, explaining that “some cases may be murders of women under the defense of honor claim or even intentional homicide, in the light of lack of available techniques of criminal evidences to determine whether the incident is a suicide or a murder.”

Al-Hamoud says “we, sociologists, doubt this increased number of suicides. We believe that a part of those numbers represent murders of women. This is documented in a study that included all the Iraqi regions.”

In regard of the increasing cases of suicide in Dhi Qar Governorate, Al-Hamoud said “the percentage of people under poverty line is high at the center and south of Iraq up to Baghdad, which is considered a main reason for suicide.” He also indicated that  “the spread of social media technology and the increase of blackmail of young women in particular along with the unauthorized photos or videos that may cause scandals led to suicide due to stress.”

Sociologist Dr. Ali Taher Al-Hamoud doubts the highly increased number of women suicides, explaining that “some cases may be murders of women under the defense of honor claim or even intentional homicide, in the light of lack of available techniques of criminal evidences to determine whether the incident is a suicide or a murder.”

Al-Hamoud says “we, sociologists, doubt this increased number of suicides. We believe that a part of those numbers represent murders of women. This is documented in a study that included all the Iraqi regions.”

In regard of the increasing cases of suicide in Dhi Qar Governorate, Al-Hamoud said “the percentage of people under poverty line is high at the center and south of Iraq up to Baghdad, which is considered a main reason for suicide.” He also indicated that  “the spread of social media technology and the increase of blackmail of young women in particular along with the unauthorized photos or videos that may cause scandals led to suicide due to stress.”

More than 3000 cases were recorded between 2015-2017…

Despite the high indicator of suicides in Iraq since 2003 until 2019, it is still- according to Al-Hamoud- within the normal range and even lower in comparison with the international suicide curve which reaches 11.4 for each 100 thousand people.

Al-Hamoud linked shedding the light on  the suicides in the latest years to the variety of media and social media platforms that document and circulate any incident.

However, The civil activist Jamil Ali describes this comparison as inaccurate; suicides in Muslim countries is religiously and socially forbidden, and “the motivations and reasons are completely different; as suicides here are mainly related to poverty, injustice, and despair of a better life.”

He also explained that  “suicides are mostly committed due to specific stress or as a result of the impact of another person or entity. They also may be the cover for homicide crimes”

Committing Suicide from the Fear of Scandals

After about a year of following up the details of women’s suicides, the editors of investigation learned that a large proportion of these cases were the result of threats received by girls through social media as a result of hacking their phones and acquisition of their private photos and videos.

This is what happened with the victim S.B. She committed suicide after a person electronically blackmailed her and threatened to circulate her photos and her family’s photos too after he had taken possession of them.

According to Abdullah al-Baidani, the researcher, women commit suicide after being subjected to such pressures and assaults, due to tribal restrictions and popular customs that consider publishing the women photos is a scandal punishable by murder.

Official of the government Suicide Cell in Dhi Qar (In Iraq) confirmed the suspicions of the social researcher Al-Hammoud, that “ murders which are claimed to be committed for the sake of honor by its perpetrators, are registered as suicides”. He attributes that to the “nature of the conservative society”.

He explained that the local government “has formed joint committees with the police leadership, civil society organizations and the Dhi Qar Health Department aiming at identifying the causes of the increase in suicides rates to reduce them as much as possible,” calling for the inclusion of those who attempted suicide for economic reasons by Social Welfare Program at least.

Because the security sources in Dhi Qar are dealing with a tribal coservative society, many of them rejected to comment on the existence of cases of murder among the women killing crimes, recorded as suicides. The sources that we have been communicating with, did not deny or confirm the point of view of the sociologist, Al- Hamoud0. They merely repeated: ” No comment “.

Captain S.M from the Department for Combatting Crime of Nasiriyah stated that “the security services take technical measures in the event of receiving any news about a suicide. They deal with the incident like any criminal case at first. They visit the “crime” scene, analyze the incident, write down the statements of those who are present in the house and the area, and they try to find any leads that will help them to decipher the reasons behind the suicide or the murder if it was a premeditated murder crime for any reason whatsoever.”

Some lawyers continuously demand the audit of the suicides files. Bassem al-Lamy, a member of the bar association, said, after the murder of a female lawyer in Baghdad in May 2019, which raised controversy about whether she committed suicide as claimed by her husband or was killed as claimed by her family, that: “There is an increasing danger of using suicide as a cover for murder crimes” as he called on the judicial authorities to carefully investigate about any suicide incident to disclose its circumstances.

Nasser Omran, the judge of Nasiriyah’s court, said that “In suicides, and in cases of proved incitement or prompting someone to commit suicide, the law is mainly strict on the instigator or the person who helped them. According to Article 408 of the Penal Code, the instigator is punishable because the legislator believes that suicide is a threat to the security and safety of society.”

However, Delovan Ali, the lawyer, believes that proving incitement to commit suicide is “very hard” especially as the judiciary relies on “technical and concrete evidence” to rule.

She Left a Letter That Exposed All the Secrets …

Aliaa Hussein, a woman in her forties, hugged her three children for the last time as she cried, before entering the bathroom of her house in Nasiriyah, mid-March 2018, with a package of “gasoline” and matchbox to take her own life.

Aliaa did not want to leave without exposing who had pushed her to commit suicide. She left a written letter where she explained the reasons behind her suicide, calling on her family to avenge her after her death.

Aliaa Hussein, a woman in her forties, hugged her three children for the last time as she cried, before entering the bathroom of her house in Nasiriyah, mid-March 2018, with a package of “gasoline” and matchbox to take her own life.

Aliaa did not want to leave without exposing who had pushed her to commit suicide. She left a written letter where she explained the reasons behind her suicide, calling on her family to avenge her after her death.

According to the messages found on Aliaa’s mobile phone, she was subjected to electronic blackmail by a fake account on “Facebook”. Someone had hacked her WhatsApp, stole her private photos and videos which were saved on her phone, then asked her to pay him 10 thousand dollars or go to Baghdad to have sexual intercourse with him, or else he will circulate those videos.

Although the criminal evidences proved it was a suicide incident, it was not registered as a suicide due to the tribal pressures that drove the police station to register it as an accidental fire. Meanwhile, the victim’s family failed to find the “blackmailer” who deactivated his account on Facebook, according to a source close to the family.

The head of the governmental Suicide Crisis Unit said that “separating suicides from (honor) crimes or electronic blackmailing is challenging in the society of “Dhi Qar” due to the relations or patronage enjoyed by the tribes and the families of the victims with some powerful political persons on one hand, and with policemen on the other hand.” That’s why such crimes are diluted.

Death as an Escape?

International organizations globally attribute suicides to many psychological, social, and economic reasons. Meanwhile, Iman al-Rawi, the Iraqi social researcher, attributes suicides to the “woeful economic situation”, in addition to “high divorce rates, family breakdowns, and social constraints imposed on males as well as females. Besides the spread of drugs and the increase in the incidence of mental illness as a result of war and violence.”

Faten al-Halafi, who is in charge of the Women and Criminal Justice file in the OHCHR, confirmed the increase in suicides rates. She described the figures as “dangerous” attributing its most important reason to social constraints on one hand, and to unemployment and the living situation on the other hand.”

Al-Halafi said that such an increase is the result of “domestic violence, social and psychological pressures within families,” referring to the spread of suicides as a phenomenon among students in the latest years.

Judges and activists in civil society keep warning that many suicides are actually homicide crimes being covered under the cloak of suicides.

She also stated that “reducing suicides requires governmental, social, and religious engagement in raising awareness among the new generation. It also requires providing psychological centers and job opportunities, in addition to addressing family problems.”

In Iraq, there are no psychological centers to accommodate and rehab those who are considering suicide. Ali al-Bayati, member of the OHCHR, said that the country “lacks psychological centers and there is a huge shortage of entities specialized in psychotherapy and health personnel. The worst is that the culture of psychiatry is almost absent in general.”

Zeinab Khalaf, who chaired the Women and Children Committee in the dissolved Dhi Qar Governorate Council, believes that the reason behind the continuous increase in the suicides figures in the governorate is “the social pressures on children, the misuse of the social media, lack of surveillance by parents, family breakdown, and the financial aspect to which about 20% of suicide reasons are attributed.”

A Desperate Future

Graduating from the Faculty of Engineering did not deter the young man S.H from committing suicide. He jumped from the top of Al-Nasr bridge into the Euphrates River in the center of Nasiriyah. Despite the investigations, the police could not find the reasons behind his suicide. His family kept repeating that they do not understand why he did so.

Hussein Ali, an activist, attributed the reason behind many suicides committed by the youth to “youth’s despair” in general, in the light of the bad political and economic circumstances and the uncertainties of the future. He stated that with the breakout of the popular protests at the end of 2019 and their continuation in early 2020 in Nasiriyah as the most prominent space for those protests, there was a decrease in the suicides rates, due to the renewed hopes for a better future.

The investigation team was not able to get the figures about the suicides rates during the period of the popular protests led by young men and women which managed to force the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign and demanded the formation of a new government, and in the light of the security chaos, the suspension of the institutions, and the organizations’ preoccupation with monitoring cases of murders and kidnappings of the protestors. However, activists confirmed that the governerate has witnessed a decline of this phenomenon during “the heyday of the uprising” before it increased again.

After about two years of his failed suicide attempt, Ismail does not want to remember this “awful experience” as he puts it. He closed his eyes and shortly sighed before he said, looking at a wooden chair in the corner of his study room: “It was a big turning point in my life … my family picked me up from that hole.”

*Some of the names mentioned in the investigation are pseudonyms.

Graduating from the Faculty of Engineering did not deter the young man S.H from committing suicide. He jumped from the top of Al-Nasr bridge into the Euphrates River in the center of Nasiriyah. Despite the investigations, the police could not find the reasons behind his suicide. His family kept repeating that they do not understand why he did so.

Hussein Ali, an activist, attributed the reason behind many suicides committed by the youth to “youth’s despair” in general, in the light of the bad political and economic circumstances and the uncertainties of the future. He stated that with the breakout of the popular protests at the end of 2019 and their continuation in early 2020 in Nasiriyah as the most prominent space for those protests, there was a decrease in the suicides rates, due to the renewed hopes for a better future.

The investigation team was not able to get the figures about the suicides rates during the period of the popular protests led by young men and women which managed to force the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign and demanded the formation of a new government, and in the light of the security chaos, the suspension of the institutions, and the organizations’ preoccupation with monitoring cases of murders and kidnappings of the protestors. However, activists confirmed that the governerate has witnessed a decline of this phenomenon during “the heyday of the uprising” before it increased again.

After about two years of his failed suicide attempt, Ismail does not want to remember this “awful experience” as he puts it. He closed his eyes and shortly sighed before he said, looking at a wooden chair in the corner of his study room: “It was a big turning point in my life … my family picked me up from that hole.”

*Some of the names mentioned in the investigation are pseudonyms.

*Some of the names mentioned in the investigation are pseudonyms.

The investigation was done with the support and under supervision of NIRIJ investigative journalism network

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لتصلكم نشرة درج الى بريدكم الالكتروني