Explained: How the killing of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl by US troops exposes the Western media’s double standards

Zainab Essam Majed al-Khazali was killed by a stray bullet when US troops were conducting military drills in Baghdad. The mainstream media has kept mum on the issue, with some Twitter users saying that if the crime had been committed by 'a non-American country, the world would have gone mad'

FP Explainers September 23, 2022 17:15:48 IST
Explained: How the killing of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl by US troops exposes the Western media’s double standards

Zainab Essam Majed al-Khazali was killed by US gunfire while they were conducting military drills on Victoria Base, near Baghdad International Airport. Image Courtesy:

“What about all the people killed by American police? Did all these deaths get investigated?” asked Ebrahim Raisi, the Iran president, at a news conference held in New York on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

His defiant stance came as he was questioned over the custodial death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was held by the country’s morality police and the subsequent protests in the country, which have seen women burning their headscarves and chopping their hair off in public.

While speaking to the media, he lamented what he said were “double standards” in the West regarding human rights. Amid all the tension, social media users highlighted the death of a 15-year-old girl in Iraq, who was allegedly killed by American troops.

We take a closer look at what happened to this teen in Iraq — and the lack of media coverage around it.

The death of Zainab Essam Majed al-Khazali

On 20 September, 15-year-old Iraqi Zainab Essam Majed al-Khazali was killed by US gunfire while they were conducting military drills on Victoria Base, near Baghdad International Airport.

The incident took place near the Abu Ghraib prison, which has earned infamy for being the spot where members of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a series of human rights violations and war crimes against detainees during the Iraq occupation of 2004.

The Iraqi Security Media Cell announced that they have launched an investigation into the murder, which was described as a “random shooting”.

Iraq’s security forces was quoted as telling TheCradle, “The killing of Zainab Essam Majed coincided with the presence of training operations for the American forces… the bullet that was taken out of the girl’s head confirms that it is from one of the weapons used by the American forces in the embassy and airport.”

The head of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq resistance group, Qais al-Khazali, demanded via Twitter that “intelligence services present a detailed report to the Iraqi people, explaining this cowardly incident, and how a military base can exist on Iraqi soil in clear violation of the Iraqi constitution… and sovereignty.”


Khazali also condemned the use of live ammunition in the US training and drill exercises, which he said were carried out in a residential area with a disregard for civilian life.

Incidentally, the teen was killed just days after the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, but has little or no coverage in the Western media.

US President Joe Biden in his UNGA speech blasted Tehran for Amini’s death and expressed his solidarity with Iranian women, who were protesting, but failed to make any mention of the Iraqi teen.

Media coverage

There has been a deafening media silence regarding the death of the 15-year-old teenage, with most Western media outlets focusing on the death of Mahsa Amini in neighbouring Iran.

The New York Times wrote about “the death on Friday of a 22-year-old woman in Iran after she was detained by the morality police,” claiming that “morality police units arbitrarily enforce the rules, and their tactics range from verbal notices to monetary fines, to violently dragging women into vans for detention.”

Similarly, France24, The Guardian and other Western media outlets reported on Amini’s death while staying completely mum on the 15-year-old’s killing in Iraq.

American media has covered Mahsa Amini’s death quite extensively, taking jabs at the Iranian regime and questioning their record on human rights.

The US Treasury Department also announced sanctions against Iran’s morality police over the death of a woman in custody and violence against protesters. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement, "Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in Morality Police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people. We condemn this unconscionable act in the strongest terms and call on the Iranian government to end its violence against women and its ongoing violent crackdown on free expression and assembly."

Some social media users have vented their anger at the silence over the issue, asking why the teen’s death has been brushed under the rug.

Another user, going by the handle @anteneh_asnake pointed out on Twitter, “If a non-Western nation rather than US had committed this crime, the world would have gone insane.”

Some analysts have pointed out that the lack of reporting on the death of the 15-year-old is part of the West’s attempts of pushing anti-Iran propaganda — at a time when the country is still trying to revive its nuclear deal.

With inputs from agencies

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