Women’s rights in Iraqi Kurdistan: a few words

Ramyar Hassani

By Ramyar Hassani:

A week left till March 8th and International Women’s Day. But in Iraqi Kurdistan three women have been killed, one by 15 bullets while in bed and the other two were found dead in a pond and, of course – according to my knowledge and the nature of media outlets in that part of the world – it might be more! What’s more, this is not something new but is horribly an ongoing phenomenom. This issue brings up some points to consider.

First of all, the atrocity of a patriarchal society comes in mind and the way that society looks on women and their rights. This has been an ongoing struggle all over the world, but with different forms and levels, even when the women have been presented as being very free at governmental events, in commercial ads or by media outlets.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Kurdistan Region Presidency (KRP) and all the political parties are always emphasizing defending and promoting women’s rights. It is not very hard to prove that they are all lying: for instance, how many times have we seen Barzani’s wife accompany him around the world on his trips abroad, like other presidents’ wives do? At how many national anniversary ceremonies has he had his wife beside him? When the highest political figure hides his wife and does not let her appear in public, according to his dogmatic beliefs, is it rational to believe his words about supporting women’s rights? He is just one example among a big group of high-ranking political and governmental figures in Kurdistan.

Unfortunately the non-governmental (NGO) sector has been unable to be as effective as it should be and includes elements involved in sabotaging its work. In Iraqi Kurdistan the laws for protecting women’s rights have not been enforced because the judiciary has been manipulated all the time and this lack of law enforcement has empowered the tribes to back criminals. On the other hand, some of the women’s rights organizations get funds from political parties or figures, limiting them from speaking out as they are supposed to. Many times we see that a man is talking on women’s issues in society and even supervising female activists in this area of human rights. Another factor is that there is almost no safety in the shelters to reassure both the women taking refuge and the organizations running them that they are secure and nobody can hurt them, at least while they live there. Shelters have been attacked by tribes with armed men. And maybe a couple more elements ….

Back to the essence of the case and the violation of women’s rights, most of the time there are too many arguments between women’s rights activists and religious figures, such as clerics and religious-based political parties in Kurdistan. This argument is ongoing and has unfortunately resulted in much hatred since the clerics say that their religion stopped the killing of girls that happened in pre-Islamic Arab societies and explain how the prophet of Islam asked his followers to respect women; while the activists highlight the oppression experienced by women under Islam such as the hijab, deprival of equal rights, authorizing men to punish their wives, polygamy, and so on … The issue is again the patriarchal system with, not only Islam but also the other religions being formed in the same male-dominated framework.

Apparently, Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the most modern parts of the region compared to neighboring countries, according to many of the foreigners, including foreign governmental bureaus, organizations and even individual tourists. But these foreigners should become more involved in this matter and speak out about this dark, clandestine side of the reality and spread the truth to the international community; then maybe the Kurdish authorities and judiciary will take more serious steps to protect women’s rights because they depend a lot on the international community’s words and just want to show it that there is progress.

In the end, there is no end to women’s rights violations and women have been oppressed all the time for centuries, but the only hope is to see a diminution of this type of oppression.


Copyright © 2014 Kurdistantribune.com

2 Responses to Women’s rights in Iraqi Kurdistan: a few words
  1. HAVAL
    March 1, 2014 | 13:34

    well done for well writin article at this difficult time

  2. Sarah
    April 21, 2014 | 06:42

    What is written here is based on absolutely no solid foundation, vague, presumptuous and poorly written article that should not have made it to this site. You assume that Barzani has locked his wife away, under the assumption that she has no voice to speak up against it, not considering that this might be a personal choice of hers, that in itself is a reflection on how you, as a ‘writer’ view women.

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