13 July 2006

Official complaint to the BBC - when is a 14-year-old girl a 'woman'?

This morning I sent an official complant to the BBC via their website. I urge others to do the same:

I read the article on the BBC News Online website "US soldiers charged in rape case" .

Firstly, you start the article with this paragraph: "Four US soldiers have been charged with rape and murder over an attack on an Iraqi woman who was killed along with her family last March." and then right at the end of the article you report: "The woman he is alleged to have raped and killed was aged between 14 and 20, the US military says."

This is yet another classic example where the BBC takes as gospel truth whatever the US Army says while ignoring any other conflicting reports, a clear case of bias.

In fact, as you are well aware, Reuters news agency authenticated the victims real age as 14 (not "between 14 and 20"), by examining her birth certificate, identity card and the death certificate: "Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi died of "gunshot wounds in the head, with burns", according to the death certificate. That and her identity card, which relatives showed Reuters, show she was a minor aged 14, and not 20 or 25 as stated in U.S. official documents which say she was raped."

CNN also confirm the birth date: "The mayor of Mahmoudiya confirmed that birth date to CNN."

According to the BBC, when is a 14-year-old child a 'woman'?

Only when a coalition soldier is charged with raping an Iraqi?

Yes is the answer.

It is the only case on the BBC website where a 14 year old girl is referred to as a 'woman'. I have conducted a search of the BBC News website and in all the other cases I can find on the BBC website of a man in the UK being charged with the rape of a 14 or 15 year-old, the person raped was referred to as a 'girl' or at very least 'teenager':

1. Man charged with raping 14-year-old
"A man has been charged with sexual offences following the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl."

2. Man charged with rape of teenager
"Police investigating a sex attack on a 14-year-old girl in Lancashire have charged a man with rape"

3. Man charged with promenade rape
"A 27-year old man has been charged with the rape of a 15-year old girl."

4. Man, 50, charged with 1989 rape
"A man has been charged with the rape of a 14-year-old girl in South Tyneside 16 years ago."

5. Man charged with rapes
"A man has been charged with raping two teenagers and a woman in Greater Manchester. Tanweer Nazir was charged with the offences after attacks involving two girls, aged 14 and 15 and a 22-year-old woman, in separate incidents."

I could go on, but I am sure you get my point. I would ask you to update the article concerned.

Secondly if we were to get our news solely from the BBC we would be completely in the dark as to the full facts of the case and as to how the US military has consistently shown the child as older than she actually was. Both Reuters and CNN have given much fuller information than the BBC. Why is this?


"There have been conflicting reports about the alleged rape victim's age. Sunday, Reuters news agency released documents indicating that she was 14. Reuters said identification cards and death certificates give the victim's date of birth as August 19, 1991.The mayor of Mahmoudiya confirmed that birth date to CNN. However, a Justice Department affidavit in the case against Green says investigators estimated victim's age at about 25, while the U.S. military said she was 20. The U.S. military statement Sunday made clear that officials are aware of the discrepancies and that her age is an important part of the investigation. "

"A Justice Department affidavit says Green and other soldiers planned to rape a young woman who lived near the checkpoint they manned in Mahmoudiya. The affidavit says three soldiers allegedly accompanied Green into the house, and another soldier was told to monitor the radio while the assault took place. The affidavit says Green shot the woman's relatives, including a girl of about 5; raped the young woman; then fatally shot her. Soldiers are quoted in the affidavit as telling investigators that Green and his companions then set the family's house afire, threw an AK-47 rifle used in the killings into a canal and burned their bloodstained clothing. Green was honorably discharged from the Army before the incident came to light after being diagnosed with an unspecified personality disorder, according to court papers."

Reuters :

"THE VICTIMS -- Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi died of "gunshot wounds in the head, with burns", according to the death certificate. That and her identity card, which relatives showed Reuters, show she was a minor aged 14, and not 20 or 25 as stated in U.S. official documents which say she was raped. -- Her father Qasim Hamza Rasheed al-Janabi, 34, a laborer, his wife Fakhriya Taha Muheisin al-Janabi, 43, and their younger daughter Hadeel Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, 6, also all died from gunshot wounds; two sons, now aged 10 and 13, were absent.
THE PROSECUTION CASE -- Green and three others drank alcohol, in violation of a standing general order in Iraq, as they discussed raping Abeer on March 11. Shortly afterward at least two changed into dark civilian clothes, another violation, and the four went off armed leaving a fifth soldier manning the radio at their checkpoint. -- At the house 200 metres away, Green who had been inside before and wore a T-shirt over his face, went into a room with the parents and child. Another soldier threw Abeer to the floor. -- Green shot the parents and child with the father's AK-47 rifle, then the second soldier and Green raped Abeer on the floor before Green shot her several times. The two other soldiers at the house say they did not take part in these acts."

In view of the fact that it is this specific case which has resulted in the Iraqi PM calling for an end to the immunity (although impunity might be a better word) from Iraqi law for US troops - incidentally information that does not exist on the BBC News Online website - don't you think that the BBC could and should provide more information (and less biased in the US military favour) in this matter?

Iraq to ask UN to end U.S. immunity after rape case Mon Jul 10, 2006 5:27 PM BST By Mariam Karouny BAGHDAD (Reuters)

Why is the BBC not publishing the full facts of the case? I would much appreciate a reply.

Yours Sincerely,

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