Posted by: hevallo | September 3, 2008

In Defence of Kurdish Women.

Fire and Stone: In defense of women – By Sheinei Saleem

Every week, particularly on Fridays my heart stops dead in its tracks as I hear yet another story of a Kurdish woman burning herself, stoned to death or brutally murdered. I am part of an organization, that once a week circulates the latest happenings throughout what is referred to as countries of concern in the Middle East as well Afghanistan and Egypt. It never fails, that each week there is an item regarding Kurdish women and violation of her basic human rights: the right to live life on her own terms free of yielding to societal pressures and to be a mother, a wife, a daughter, sister and a friend without sacrificing her physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Each day, a Kurdish woman is subjected to much violence because she speaks out for herself whether she is an established mother and a journalist fighting for Kurdish women or a young girl who at 16, believe she has found her life’s partner. It angers me and breaks my heart that so much is happening to our women while many of us either are not fully aware of it or simply do not feel that we have the ability to do something about it.

One can write numerous books about the challenges and struggles of Kurdish women throughout history. The purpose of my writing is not so but rather to remind my readers of the obvious and hope to persuade them to take action. I do not say this because I am a Kurdish woman, but Kurdish women are truly beautiful.

When I think about women, I think of captivating eyes, soft skin, dangerous curves, loyalty and menstrual cycles. But I often ask myself, what comprises a “real” woman? The essence of a beautiful woman, not vanity but true beauty and that is the very thing that makes up a Kurdish woman: the strength to endure and carry on despite the circumstances.

All over the globe, Kurdish women are doing just that. For example, in Southern Kurdistan, Kurdish women are fighting in the political arena to eliminate gender biased laws and obtain the right to divorce, inherit, love, obtain well-deserved carriers, promotions and choose their own paths. In Northern Kurdistan, they fight alongside their male counterparts for the right to be Kurdish, in Western Kurdistan, they fight for their right to exist and be recognized as citizens with access to education and healthcare; and in Eastern Kurdistan, they fight for their rights not only as women who suffer greatly under what is far from Islamic law but also for their Kurdish identity.

In the Diaspora, they fight for the right to make their own decisions without yielding to outdated social norms and pressures, finding a balance between the two societies and raising children who are not only productive citizens in the Diaspora but also well aware of their homeland and culture. These women do this, all the while being subjected to gender-based violence and harsh circumstances whether they are double standards, lack of an education, patriarchal families, unsupportive communities or war. Yet, each day, more and more reports of incidences are published of women being victims of self mutilation, forced marriages and honor killings. While such practices were present 20, 30 or 40 years ago but never at today’s rate which could be attributed to the fact that today more women are speaking out and demanding equality.

Even in her attempted suicide, one cannot help but see the strength and endurance of a Kurdish woman. Clearly the slow and painful burning of one’s flesh is no easy way out but rather a last cry for help and last proof of strength that she has been able to but can no longer withstand the physical and mental abuse by the very people that were supposed to love and protect her. So I ask, how many of these women must we lose before we begin to speak out? When will our societies wake up and recognize our women and allow them means of channeling their energies in a positive way? How many more must go up in flames before we can take action.

How many more women like Dua and Kurdistan must be stoned to death before our own government intervenes? How many more of our future young women must be killed or run away both in the Diaspora and in Kurdistan before we realize we have a problem and try to do something about it? How many more women must be trafficked out of Kurdistan before we are even aware of it and stop it?

It is a great shame that in a culture as beautiful as ours, the brutal deaths of our women is what is getting public attention. Kurdish women have become a major concern to many world-wide organizations that aim to eliminate honor killings and ill-treatment of women. If you are not aware of Kurdistan Aziz, the latest victim of an honor killing in Southern Kurdistan, please read her story as published through Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), Women’s News Network and International Campaign Against Honour Killings (ICAHK) and take a stand if you have not already done so.

Please do not just read this and say to yourself “what a shame” and go on about your daily life but rather take some time out and hear the cries of these women and be their voice. Let not the deaths of our women go in vain. While some would say there is not much that can be done in other parts of Kurdistan, we do have the chance to make a difference in Southern Kurdistan. Write to the Kurdish authorities and DEMAND for stricter rules and more enforcement of Kurdish women’s rights. DEMAND them to truly protect and not turn away women who seek their shelter because they are hesitant to get involved in “tribal issues.”

DEMAND more and better psychiatric and rehabilitation services for women who have been victims of domestic violence and other forms of ill-treatment. Raise awareness about the issues facing our women especially the current rising concern of women trafficking and petition for further investigation from our Kurdish lawmakers. In addition, take a stand in your communities in the Diaspora, help educate families and young women by setting up social and support networks for them to turn to with their issues and concerns.

The responsibility lies within each one of us to form cohesive and nurturing communities in which it allows our youth to be productive individuals who are dedicated not only to themselves but to Kurdistan as well, thereby preventing runaways, violence and murder. Being in the Diaspora, we are presented with the rare opportunity and ability to freely voice our concerns and demand rights of our people.

Throughout the US and Europe, there are numerous individuals and organizations who are working so hard for Kurdish women and their families, help them and get involved in your own unique way. No action is too little. I don’t mean to sound like Obama, but our society needs to change and that change only occurs when each one of us, male and female, young and old, commits to make it happen within ourselves, families and communities!



Kurdistan Aziz: Another victim of stoning

In the latest killing, or at least the latest to come to public attention, Kurdistan Aziz was 16 years old when she escaped her family with a man she knew they would not accept, and courageously following the ancient tradition of radu kauten they eloped together to Arbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. They planned to start a life together. But her father had other ideas for her; not of love, happiness or choice but that she must die for this rebellion against the patriarchal order.

The girl was well aware of the risk so she asked the police for help in the KDP controlled city. They referred her to the Department to End Domestic Violence. This Department, pledged to protect girls like Kurdistan proved themselves corrupt in accepting a bribe from her father and turned her over to him knowing the consequences. No Kurd could claim to be unaware of the dangers of returning a young woman to her father in this situation, particularly not a professional within a Department of this nature. The person who accepted this bribe is an accessory to murder since that is what ‘honour’ killing is, controlled murder.

Kurdistan Aziz was taken back to her family; they chose to kill her by the method of stoning her to death on the Hawre Mountain. A local woman’s organization alerted the authorities in the Governate of Sulemaniya, controlled by the PUK. The PUK refused to intervene in a ‘tribal issue’ and asked the women’s organization to risk their own safety to provide a photograph of her. On 17-18th of May, at 16 years old, Kurdistan Aziz, the girl who fell in love, was killed by her relatives, her body crushed with rocks.

The death of Kurdistan Aziz is part of the brutal and common idea that death is necessary to reclaim the “honour” of the community from the “shame” supposedly brought upon them by women or girls who dare to try to make their own lives and their own decisions: but there is no shame in Kurdistan Aziz’s love and courage. The shame is in the hearts and minds of the politicians, the men who are paid to protect women who in reality sell them by accepting bribes, knowing full well the outcome. The shame is in the hearts of men who could kill a child by stoning her, because she wanted to love and be loved according to her choice, and because her father wanted to protect his reputation as a man who treats women as a proprietal right, because in Kurdistan, this is where rightness lies.

The shame is upon murderers for murdering women in the name of their warped and degraded perception of ‘honour’.


National police must act immediately to apprehend the father of Kurdistan Aziz and all members of the Aziz family and prosecute them for murder.

National police must investigate the Department to End Domestic Violence and discover the individual responsible for accepting the bribe and prosecute him or her as an accessory to murder.

All employees working for the Department to End Domestic Violence must be investigated; anyone who had knowledge of the bribe must be dismissed from service and hold no role in public service in the future. Women cannot have confidence in an organization that has been proven to accept bribes and this must be addressed.

No public official should accept the assurance of a father, or any other community member that a person released to them will not be harmed. These assurances provide no protection to the potential victim; they should provide none to any other person.

The PUK in Sulemaniya are grossly negligent. Whoever made the decision to ignore the stoning of this young girl is unfit to hold public office and must be dismissed and face criminal charges.

All members of the Department must be trained and taught about their responsibilities; and the consequences of betraying the trust of vulnerable women.

Public officials should never release a vulnerable girl or woman to any relative or other community figure even if that person gives assurances of her safety. These assurances provide no protection. It should go without saying that they should provide no protection for corrupt and collusive officials.

There must be a full enquiry into all the failures and an analysis of how the system of protection can be improved; it must include extreme professional and criminal repercussions to any individual in public life who ignore or betray women at risk of violence.

Public awareness needs to be organised through the media

Please support our campaign: we are asking you to write to or fax the Kurdistan Regional Government the addresses below expressing your concern about the murder of Kurdistan Aziz and supporting our demands.

The Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil

Phone: 873-156-2753

Fax: 001-651-846-6051


KRG Representation in the United States

Office: 202 776 7196

Fax: 202 887 9168


Kurdistan Regional Government-Erbil

USA Representation

1050 Seventeenth Street, NW, Suite 600

Washington, DC 20036

KRG Representation in the United Kingdom

Phone: 020-7828-8616

Fax: 020-7828-8526


7 Belgrave Road

London SW1V 1QB

KRG-European Union Mission

Phone: +32-2-513 72 28

Fax: +32-2-513 36 79


rue le la Loi 221

1040 Brussels


KRG Representation in the Nordic Countries

Phone: +46 8 442 0505

Fax: +46 8 442 0905


Box 7127

SE-170 07 Solna


KRG Representation in Germany

Phone: +49 30 7974 8491

Fax: +49 30 7974 8492


Vertretung der Regionalregierung-Kurdistan Irak in Deutschland

P.O. Box 150 101

D-10633 Berlin, Germany

KRG Office with UN & NGOs

Phone: 0041- 22 732 1656

Fax: 0041- 22 732 1659


34 Rue du Moillelbeau

1209 Geneve, Switzerland

KRG Representation in France

Phone: +33 1 42 65 18 45

Fax: +33 1 42 65 18 46

Email: – By Sheinei Saleem22/07/2008 00:00:00

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  1. Thanks for sharing this

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