Why Are So Many Women Dying Violently in South Kurdistan?

By Gaziza Kadr Darwish:

According to the leading Kurdish media outlet Rudaw, regarding the latest women’s issues data in the south of Kurdistan, during the last six months 109 women committed suicide, including 39 who shot or hanged themselves and 62 who set themselves on fire. Hawler city was listed as the main area for these tragedies, and Dhok city came second followed by Sulaymani. Apart from these suicides, during this period 93 women were killed by men in different incidents. Furthermore, there were 370 cases of women committing suicide over the last two years.

Sabri Rashid, the women’s activist, argues that men are behind most if not all women’s suicides. While it is true that women have killed themselves by setting themselves on fire or hanging themselves, in most cases the main cause of this is men. There was a case, for example, of a woman who made threats to her partner that she would set herself on fire and her partner encouraged her to go ahead and commit suicide.

Women’s activists believe that most of the post-mortem examinations in these cases are suspicious and not reliable. In most reports it is indicated that the victims had mental illnesses. We need further research into why these women killed themselves and who is responsible, and also how could it be possible to diagnose mental illness in the dead? Mohammed Salim, director of the coroner’s court in Hawler, with twenty years’ experience, stated that such diagnosis after the incident cannot be reliable, and all we can say is that the dead person killed herself or has been killed. In most cases of death by burning, the women have deliberately set themselves alight. However, it is often falsely reported that they died because of faulty cooking appliances.

Hogr Aziz, spokesman for the Hawler Police, stated that most cases of suicide by women burning themselves are caused by mental illness, and that unless they were mentally ill they wouldn’t even burn their fingers. But how is he qualified to make such a diagnosis? He also stated that in most cases the authorities cannot reveal the true cause of the suicides so as not to tarnish the reputation of the families. However, for as long as the real causes are covered up, there will continue to be too many of these tragedies.

The Western powers often cite the KRG as a ‘model’ of democracy in the Middle East. But there is something sick about a society in which so many women are killing themselves or being murdered. The British and US governments especially should put pressure on the KRG to act now to improve the lot of women in south Kurdistan.

 Gaziza Kadr Darwish is a Kurdish woman activist based in the UK

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