Religious vigillantes killed 40 women in Basra
BAGHDAD (AP) — Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against "violating Islamic teachings," the police chief said Sunday.
Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed sectarian groups that he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam. They dispatch patrols of motorbikes or unlicensed cars with tinted windows to accost women not wearing traditional dress and head scarves, he added.
"The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior," Khalaf told The Associated Press. He said men with Western clothes or haircuts are also attacked in Basra, an oil-rich city some 30 miles from the Iranian border and 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
"Those who are behind these atrocities are organized gangs who work under cover of religion, pretending to spread the instructions of Islam, but they are far from this religion," Khalaf said.
"Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death," according to the red graffiti proliferating in certain districts.
Notes are found affixed to the mutilated bodies that explain why the victim was targeted. Stated motives include alleged adultery and violations of "Islamic teachings."
The authorities estimate that the true death toll exceeds the 40 murders reported so far. Many families are too afraid to come forward, they say.