I wondered, incorrectly, if Leila Hussein was a reluctant accomplice in the death of her daughter, Rand Abdel-Qader, the young girl who was murdered by her monstrous father for speaking to a British soldier. Now I feel particularly awful about that; Leila Hussein was devastated by the killing, condemned the act, and left her contemptible husband at grave personal risk.
Leila Hussein has been murdered, gunned down as she tried to escape Iraq.
It was two weeks after Rand’s death on 16 March that a grief-stricken Leila, unable to bear living under the same roof as her husband, found the strength to leave him. She had been beaten and had had her arm broken. It was a courageous move. Few women in Iraq would contemplate such a step. Leila told The Observer in April: ‘No man can accept being left by a woman in Iraq. But I would prefer to be killed than sleep in the same bed as a man who was able to do what he did to his own daughter.’
Her words were to prove prescient. Leila turned to the only place she could, a small organisation in Basra campaigning for the rights of women and against ‘honour’ killings. Almost immediately she began receiving threats – notes calling her a ‘prostitute’ and saying she deserved to die like her daughter.
This is an instance of unimaginable fear, hatred, and tragedy…and it’s just one example of a climate and pattern of oppression of women. It’s a story that’s hard to read through the tears.