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Monday, June 18, 2007


by Mary Saracino

Du’a Khalil Aswad fell in love with the wrong man.

Guided by the bright light of a full moon
she held the hand of the one her heart dared to claim
despite her family’s religious proscriptions.

Did she think their love could transcend
the dogma of ages, outsmart the stony fists of doctrine
that separate one neighbor from another?
Did she hope to overturn the holy laws that sabotage
human desire and stifle the soul’s fierce assertions?

She of the Kurdish Yazidi faith; he a Sunni Muslim.

Was it blasphemy that drove her to defy tradition?
Was her love a heinous crime against God and country?
Or was it true and pure, wanting only to be received and returned?

One April day a posse of Yazidi men — two her blood kin —
dragged her from her home, hauled her to the center of town,
plucked rocks from the parched ground,
pummeled her arms, her legs, her face with outrage,
kicked and beat her until she died.

A crowd of townspeople watched the stones smash her bones,
witnessed the dusty shoes of anger snuff life
from her once-vibrant eyes. The local police watched, too,
abdicating their authority, stalwart in their refusal to interfere.

The stone-throwing slayers walked away
leaving her battered body for others to bathe and bury.

Where is the honor in such a killing?

And what became of her lover?
Did the men stone him too? Or was this crime of love hers alone,
a woman’s unbridled heart a heresy in the making,
a force too feral to tame, too precariously potent
and unpredictable to pledge itself to soul-less rules
or the henchmen who enforce them?

NOTE: Du'a Khalil Aswad, a 17 year old from the town of Bashiqa , in Iraqi Kurdistan, was stoned to death on April 7, 2007. To sign a petition to protest the killing of this young woman, visit:

Mary Saracino is a novelist, poet and memoir writer who lives in Denver, CO. Her newest novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006) was named a 2007 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist. Visit or for more information.