A 15-year-old girl spends days in mosques, police stations, and shelters run by non-governmental organizations NGO, and refuses to return to her parents, even though her father pledged through (KirkukNow) not to abuse her, saying, "I want her to live with us."
At the end of last week, Lara, a pseudonym for a 15-years-old Kirkuki girl, left her father's and took refuge in a mosque. After that local police in coordination with NGOs returned her to her parents whom pledged to treat her properly, on April 16, she returned to the same mosque.
“I am not going home again because my father and mother torture me."
The story of the first year of Lara's life
In 2009, when Lara was one-year-old, her grandmother - her father's mother - took over her care, and she stayed with her until 2018, in Imam Qasim neighborhood, where her parents also live. But her grandmother died that year and she was returned again to her father's house.
From here began the story of "violence and torture" to which Lara was subjected at the hands of her parents, which ended the previous week with her escape from home.
Lara’s father, (KirkukNow) chose not to reveal his name, told (KirkukNow), “My mother kept telling me that she was alone and asked for my daughter stay with her and take care of her.”
I am not going home again because my father and mother torture me
The father is affiliated with a security agency and has three other children - a boy and two girls -, Lara, born in 2008, is the eldest.
"In 2018, when my mother died, I had to bring Lara back home but her behavior was different. She didn't adapt to us, didn't love us, and hated her mother a lot. She ran away from home several times and I used to bring her back every time."
On the night of April 16, Lara spoke to KirkukNow while she was in a mosque in Kirkuk and said, "I ran away because my parents beat me. I don't want to go back to them."
On Monday, April 17, Lara's father told KirkukNow over the phone, "I do not hide from you that I hit my daughter like any other father. She is my daughter and I want to raise her because she made a mistake,” Lara’s father explained.
“My daughter is out of control. She does some actions that cost us our reputation. I am a person who cares about reputation. My daughter gets out of the house and runs away."
Article 41 of the Iraqi Penal Code gives parents and teachers the “right to discipline” their minor children, provided that they do not transgress the limits established by Sharia and law.
However, in April 2019, the Iraqi Federal Court issued a statement stressing that the “right to discipline” does not mean the use of violence.
Lara's father admits that he and his wife beat their daughter. "She didn't want us either when she was living with my mother. She didn't listen to anyone else and used to insult us."
This comes while Article 29 of the Iraqi constitution prohibits all forms of violence and abuse in the family, school and society.
Last weekend, after Lara ran away from home and took refuge in one of the city's mosques, the police and NGOs learned about it, and on the same day they took a pledge from her father not to abuse her again.
But on the night of April 16, Lara resorted again to the same mosque and said, "They beat me."
Lara's father said, "I don't want what is happening now. My daughter is not sick and is in good health. She just doesn't want to live with us," he added.
"I always told my mother to let me take her with me, because she will not listen to us when she grows up, but she begged me to keep her with her, saying take her with you after my death."
He continued, saying, "Her behavior was not balanced during the few days that she stayed with us after her return. She is about to teach her brothers to commit the same behavior."
Lara is looking for shelter
Lara was taken to Al-Amal (Hope) Association for Human Rights, a local NGO, while the police continue their procedures and search for a solution.
Kirkuk police spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Amer Nuri, said, "This girl is safe. Although she was brought back to the house last time, she was tortured again, so we decided to keep her in a safe place."
"The last time - April 16 - the girl left the house crying, so we decided to take action and called her parents. The Kirkuk police chief handles the case personally," according to Nuri.
The spokesman for the Kirkuk police stressed that "because she did not live with her parents when she was young, she was subjected to a psychological condition. Nevertheless, we feel that the parents discriminate her from the rest of their children. The main reason is that her parents did not raise her on their own from the beginning."
No penalties have been imposed on Lara's parents so far, but the investigation continues with them.
"The police chief decided to take legal measures against the girl's parents in case they committed violence against her again."
Article 413 of the Iraqi Penal Code sets a penalty of up to three years in prison for anyone who intentionally assaults another person by wounding, beating, or violence, and assaults that result in physical harm.
The problem is that the girl is psychologically exhausted
Saroud Ahmed, head of the Kirkuk branch of the Al-Amal Association, who is currently keeping Lara with her, says, "We are following the case until a final solution is found for her. Her father made a pledge before the judge and the police (on April 17) that they would behave well with their daughter."
"The problem is that the girl is psychologically exhausted, and we are trying to provide her with psychological treatment," Ahmed added.
"This issue is one of the issues in which we affirm that the task of caring for children should not be entrusted to relatives. The child must be brought up with his parents, otherwise this will be the result.”
Al-Amal Association in Kirkuk has decided to accommodate Lara at a time the local administration of Kirkuk has several times announced since last year to opening the shelter built for abused women, and although the shelter was opened at the end of last year, it has not received any cases up today.
Intisar Karim, the supervisor of the shelter and in charge of the women’s empowerment department in the Kirkuk, told KirkukNow, “We have not received any cases yet, and we cannot receive this girl. All the procedures related to the work of the shelter are complete, but we must receive instructions from Baghdad to start receiving abused women.”
Lara's father concluded his interview with (KirkukNow) by saying, "My head is about to explode because I have lots of things to worry about. She is my daughter and I want her to live with us."