Role of Kurdish Media & Women’s Organizations in Depiction of Kurdish Females: Dunya’s Murder Case as an Example

Aras Ahmed

By Aras Ahmed Mhamad:

The brutal murder of Dunya, the 15-year-old bride child, by her 45-year-old husband in the city of Duhok created uproar in the streets of the Kurdistan region. The photos uploaded onto social media websites show the mutilation of Dunya’s body. Her mother says that she took photos that show her genitals removed, her breasts cut off and that she was pregnant.

An obvious factor behind social incidents and female dilemmas is the political and economical upheavals of the past few years in the Kurdistan region, which are so haphazardly ingrained into the Kurdish society. That is to say, Kurdish society has been unmercifully politicized and the economic growth is at odds with intellectual and personal awareness – more Kurdish individuals tend to imitate Americans and Europeans in terms of clothing, behaviour and lifestyle, which explains how boasting has become a disease.

The unsystematic increase in the number of television channels and media outlets has led to heated political confrontations among political party members and high-ranking officials. There are numerous political shows with two or three so-called politicians and or political activists debating political theories and sometimes attacking and accusing each other.

Rarely do we see female politicians on the shows. Moreover, the number of female hosts of political shows is no more than the fingers of one hand. (For those who follow Kurdish televisions, can you mention the names of five females hosting political shows?)

More to the point, almost all the media agencies either implement the agendas of a certain political party or a particular party leader, leaving very few opportunities for private media, if there is any, to express themselves.

The media in the Kurdistan region is carrying out the policies of Party officials and almost all the high positions within the Kurdish parties and the KRG establishments are male-dominated; therefore, increasing numbers cannot formulate independent journalism and hence the opportunity for professional work is limited.

The media in Kurdistan is not only part of the problem but it also complicates the problem. Females thus choose the kind of duties that do not cause embarrassment for their family members and relatives. Female reporters are more likely to get into trouble when reporting.

Annual reports published by the Directorates of Violence against Women in the Kurdistan region’s cities, namely Hawler (Erbil), Slemani, and Duhok, show that females are continuously subjugated, raped, sexually harassed, kidnapped, and sometimes cruelly killed.

Women are seen as the embodiment of honor in the media and sometimes, the stance of women is in fact misinterpreted. In the campaigns announced by NGOs against the killing of Dunya, pictures which show her body mutilated and covered with blood were used as the main banners. This is ironic because the mission of the campaign was supposed to ask for women’s integrity and raise awareness. Instead of raising the mutilated images of Dunya in the campaigns, the women activists should have raised and copied hundreds of photos of her husband, since he is still roving freely while the police have issued warrants to arrest him.

Females, compared to males, have been victimized more, not only in Kurdish society, but also in other societies. Statistics provided by the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA expect that, between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides. Almost everyone says Kurdistan is developed socially and intellectually, but the statistics go against this claim because violence against women is increasing at a rapid pace.

Women right’s organizations held a march in Slemani on 2nd June, waving  slogans describing Kurdistan as a graveyard for women’s right (see the image below) which is an obvious denunciation.

Dunya protest

Dunya protest

Hundreds of demonstrators were repeating and shouting this slogan and other slogans for about one hour and a half without thinking what the actual message means. Fortunately enough, at least for the women organizations, none of the slogans were shouted in English, otherwise the foreigners who were there to pay respect to Dunya would think that Kurdistan is like a hell for women.

It is understandable to portray Kurdish society as a masculine patriarchal society, but the so-called women organizations should consider that not all the Kurdish males are alike or, at least, that Sleman Zyad Yunis, the murderer husband, does not represent men living in Kurdistan.

Dunya’s parents do not deny that they were given $3,500 from their son-in-law and that the marriage was not presided over by a judge, but solemnized by a Mala (religious scholar).

Everyone involved in the case, including the Mala who solemnized the marriage, her parents, brothers and sisters. Relatives of both families should be sent to court, despite her mother’s claim that Dunya was eager to get married.

Dunya was victimized four times, first by her husband, second by activists, third by the media and finally by her parents as this was her second marriage (she was married in what is called Zhin ba Zhin or “women swap” before).

The campaigns stigmatized Kurdish men and depicted Kurdistan as hell for women’s rights, despite the fact that almost all the leading Kurdish websites posted mutilated pictures of Dunya showing one of her breasts cut off, her eye pulled out and her body was covered with blood.

Kurdistan is not a grave for women rights, though child marriages and bridal exchanges are still carried out in secret and there are still cases of unreported domestic violence. But, compared to the past, such things as bridal exchanges are decreasing dramatically. In fact, these days, it brings shame to both families, while in the past people practiced it publicly.

Women organizations protecting the rights of females should campaign and demonstrate against the ostensible “Social Institutions” in Kurdish (Maktabi Komalayati) which replace the courthouse when incidents happen and the head of the tribe’s decisions are implemented instead of the judge’s. Kurdish media should work on denouncing the phenomenon of tribal deals where the parent’s of the victims are persuaded to release the murderer for the sake of an amount of money agreed upon by both parties through the initiative of local tribal chiefs of both families, and not blow up cases or present appalling photos to get more viewers. The authorities are also partly responsible for making it easy for religious clerics to marry off underage girls.

One Response to Role of Kurdish Media & Women’s Organizations in Depiction of Kurdish Females: Dunya’s Murder Case as an Example
  1. » Kurdistan’s Justice for Dunya
    October 5, 2014 | 13:21

    […] media should not glamorize this kind of event and realize that the victim is not a puppet. These six men […]

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