When My Husband Died

By Tania Kurd Mirza: 

When my husband died, we were in mourning. “She is honourable, she will wait on his grave,” my aunt said. My sister-in-law said, “She doesn’t need to remarry, she has children she can watch them grow”.  “He left enough money for them to survive. They do not need anybody.  There is no need to discuss her marrying again”, said my grandmother.  Women who kissed me one by one to show their sympathy said the same thing: “You should be honourable, stay strong and show your fidelity to your husband; do not remarry”.

Honour! As defined by family and well-meaning people this means a woman must wait on her husband’s grave and watch her children become adults, alone and without a husband; this is what they consider to be honourable! If a woman marries again does this mean she has no honour or respect?  If the answer is yes…does this mean that, if a man should marry again after the death of his wife, he too lacks honour or respect?

Why did those women assume that, because I have children and enough money to survive, I don’t have the right to want or need a man’s love? Is it not my right to have a husband to share my life with? Isn’t it my right to go out and have fun with him?

Why did these women not consider my feelings? Remaining alone after the death of a husband and not remarrying is considered honourable; but isn’t the woman dishonouring her life by denying herself the opportunity to be a happy and fulfilled human being?  It is hypocritical that women who have husbands and are happy and secure, feel they have the right to advise other women to do the honourable thing. It is easy for them: they aren’t the ones who are faced with a lonely life, living alone without a husband. The words of these women really disturbed me. I didn’t say anything, I just cried…

On the second day of mourning, my relatives brought me a bag full of black clothes. Why is it necessary for me to wear black if I don’t want to?  Is it more honourable to my husband for me to wear black?  What if my husband loved the colour red?

After a few days, my family, my dad, mum, brothers and sisters came to my home, and the family of my husband came too. After talking and smoking for a few hours they made decisions about my future. “We will not damage our honour and leave our daughter in this home alone”, my father said. “Sir, you are right, but we are Kurds, we have our own culture, and our children are our responsibility, it’s not acceptable for us to abandon them. If she comes to our home with the children we will be happy and if not…” my husband’s big brother said. I just wanted to say “Dad, please…” But I wasn’t allowed to speak.  “You are the same girl to us as before you married…” The women relatives spoke worse about me than the men.

My children were outside waiting for a decision. The relatives were all whispering whilst I just stared at their feet. I couldn’t understand why they were whispering… I shouted loudly, “As the mother of my children please allow me to speak. I will not give my children to anyone. I will carry on as before, nothing has changed for me. I will live at my home with my children”. “Daughter that was then and now is now. If you live here alone, people will consider you to be ignominious and eat you easily”, my dad said.  I knew the decision was out of my hands and said, “OK, but after mourning”.

The day before my family came to take my children and me, I ran away with just two big bags of clothes, pictures of our wedding and pictures of my husband on the birthdays of my children.  We left Kurdistan…

Live long life alone women of my nation, where there is no life for you.

Tania Kurd Mirza is a lawyer and women’s rights activist

9 Responses to When My Husband Died
  1. Ruwayda Mustafah
    May 19, 2015 | 08:38


    Thank you for sharing this. I think the situation has changed in South of Kurdistan, where re-marrying is commonplace, although at times frowned upon.

    Women still face many instances of patriarchy and inequality. I just wanted to applaud you for being so brave and would like to get in touch w/you.

    You can find me on Facebook or Twitter: Ruwayda Mustafah.

  2. Dana
    May 19, 2015 | 09:44

    As a child I have been through this situation, however it was my mothers own choice not to remarry. On one hand I congratulate you for proving them wrong on the other running away is not courageous, staying there and showing them that you could do it on your own and change their mentality is courageous.

  3. Lesley A T Gaj
    May 19, 2015 | 10:08

    Congratulations on your courage, and your decision. Many women face similar difficulties, Kurdish and non-Kurdish, their wishes, and even those of their departed husbands, are not always recognised and respected. I salute you, you are a beacon of light!

  4. Yasin Aziz
    May 19, 2015 | 15:08

    In our patriarchal society there are so many cultural and religious taboos still standing in the way of changes desperately needed to move forward to catch up with many other civilized nations. Changes will not begin until we start from ourselves. One has to be brave and stand up for oneself and if needs be to make sacrifice. There are so many hidden social problems, it looks as though no one brave enough to mention them or no one cares. I know in some of our Kurdish families they do not let girls marry who they want, as some stone age mentality of those families think of themselves above everyone else and there are no one equals to them to marry their daughters and sisters, so the girls get too old and grown beard and mustache, that is an obvious sign of deprivation and mental illness, as their male family oppressor / relatives restrict their freedom of choice, going out and talking to any men to protect the family honour. But many of those men, they do whatever they like, even when they are married and ignore their supposedly loved ones. It is an obvious sign of a backward society when the elder who is in control is thick, he does not let the younger ones learn enough to be free and think.

  5. Lana Dizay
    May 19, 2015 | 16:30

    i am so proud of this woman’scourage to stand up and take charge of her life instead of letting others decide for her and her children!
    It’s very disturbing to hear that the women were more inconsiderate of her feelings than the men!! The society has installed in them to disservice them selves and other women.
    We, Kurds are secular people and yet so primitive when it comes to such situationsand women’s rights! Our society condems women to death while still alive because of a death of a husband with no regards to these women’s feelings!!
    It’s time that women stand up for their rights in Kurdistan because no one will hand it to them and they should not have to flee their home and country to get practice their rights as human beings!

  6. Tania
    May 19, 2015 | 21:23

    Hi all
    Dear friends, thank you for your comments. couple of friends thought that is about my situation, it’s not about my life. it’s about thousands of women in Kurdistan. I think we should accept the reality. as a lawyer I can not see any change women’s life in Kurdistan, instead of hope I accept this reality and I work for change or at least warning Kurds.
    Thanks again. Ruwayda Xanim I don’t use Facebook nor twitter..
    thanks again, proud of you all

  7. Shajwan
    May 21, 2015 | 14:11

    This story has irritated me unexpectedly. I expected in the end you would win this battle. But, its a great example of what women in this society face; we fight our battles internally and some of us externally, yet in the end the future is decided by those who believe have the authority, while women like you can provide a great life for themselves and their children.
    Thank you for bringing this story to a wider audience.

  8. Kuvan Bamarny ( Abdul-Qahar Mustafa Bamarny)
    May 24, 2015 | 20:36

    Everybody got heart and feelings and they nee to enjoy the life and satisfy thier emotional needs ,however,by law, no one can stop you from remarrying with another man or women after your husband dies.But if you are going to make a sacrifice and listen to what your parents or relatives tells you than you are a selfless and maybe an indecisive person,but if you
    want to lead a single life, living with the memories of your deceased husband, than again it is your choice.
    If I were you, I would choose to do what makes me happy rather than others ,although it might seem selfish to ignore your beloved once and go after your own feelings, but life is about all of us,and everybody deserve to be happy regardless of what happens to our dear and beloved once.It is fair that each person enjoy the life and live his or her own share until they die.

  9. Hazhar
    June 1, 2015 | 03:22

    Our society changes with having people (like you) share their stories and speak up. I have total respect for your courage. It is partly our fault as Men (we are slizzy) and fault of Other Women talking and gossiping.

    I tell my wife, do re-marry at my funeral because I Will. no reason to stop life and victimize my 2 kids. I hope you can speak at Hawler (my city) as Bashur is worst place for stereotyping

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