Ghassemlou the Feminist?


By Zakarya Khezeryan: Kurdistan Tribune – 12-7-2014 – Heralded as the ‘prophet of peace and freedom,’ Adbul Rahman Ghassemlou (A.R.G) was a man of words, action and wisdom far beyond his years. His message, persona and name resonate with every peace and freedom-loving individual that has come to know him.

Many know of Ghassemlou the man, the leader, but very few know the depths of Ghassemlou’s legacy. Beyond his struggle for the Kurdish people—for freedom, democracy and equality between races—Ghassemlou was an ardent feminist.  He not only strived to bring about equality between the sexes, more involvement of women in the Kurdish struggle, but he also emphasized that the struggle for women’s rights went beyond the Kurdish liberation movement, as attaining equal rights for women is the cornerstone to the Kurdish struggle. As much as his character would not shy from attributing such a trait, little to no attention has been given to Ghassemlou the feminist, beyond the leader and the man.

Even though he was born of privilege, A.R.G spent much of his adult life as a commoner, dedicating not only his wealth, but also his life to the Kurdish struggle.  Beyond his humility and humbleness lie his sophistication, charm and charisma. As an educated man, Ghassemlou held a doctorate in economics, and spoke eight languages as well as his native Kurdish. In love with literature, he was rarely seen without a book in hand, accompanied by a glass of wine. Yet, it was his broad smile, refined sense of humour and exuberant presence that left many in love with his character and his message.  Ghassemlou the man was exceptional in all his facets. When he wasn’t loved, he was envied, as he made the Kurdish struggle for peace and freedom known to the world.

As a leader, he exceeded all expectations, going beyond his role as the Secretary General of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan to being both a teacher and a friend. Ghassemlou the leader was one who taught people to fish, instead of catching the fish for them. Still, unlike other leaders, he was almost never at the flank of combat, rather fighting shoulder to shoulder with his peshmergas at the frontlines of battle. Even more, he was one who lived by example, often undertaking the duties of his underlings, doing chores as uncommon to a leader as cleaning toilets. Ghassemlou not only echoed the Kurdish struggle abroad, but also simultaneously strengthened it within.

For as much as his name echoes his character as an individual and as a leader, there is still much to learn about the depths of Ghassemlou’s legacy. As people turn over some of many rocks that illustrate the unquestionable essence of A.R.G, they come across one that has had little to no light shed on it, at least from an academic standpoint. At closer glance, that rock uncovers Ghassemlou the feminist. With his poised and lucid enunciation, Ghassemlou dictates his ardent views on the importance of involving women in the Kurdish liberation movement, upholding their innate rights, and also contending that they are the backbone of the Kurdish struggle, as the fight for women’s rights extends far beyond the struggle of the Kurds in general. He indicates that women make up half of society, but are not given half of its share. Kurdish women partake in virtually all aspects of Kurdish life, from managing the household to fighting on the frontlines with men, concurrently. In most cases, pulling more than just their share of weight in comparison to men. Yet, they are not treated as equal to men.

Still, he argues that in order for Kurdish women to attain their rights, they must fight for them. For, similar to the Kurdish struggle, if they do not sacrifice and strive for their innate rights, no one will give them to them. However, they are not to blame for the circumstances that impede them, as society in general still suffers from systematic violence and oppression, in one way or another. Ghassemlou admits that as a society, we have leaps and bounds to go before the Kurdish struggle can see its end, as the struggle for women’s rights goes hand in hand with that of the Kurdish people. Until women’s rights are recognized, the Kurdish people’s rights will not be either.

Ghassemlou gave this address on 8th March, 1989, the same year that saw his demise. He was murdered not on the frontlines, but where he started his mission, and where he became recognized as the ‘prophet of peace and freedom.’ During his pursuit of a peaceful solution to the oppression of the Kurdish people within Iran on 13th July, 1989, agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran assassinated A.R.G. Even worse, this occurred on foreign soil, and to date the international community has not only failed him, and the Kurdish people, but all peace and freedom lovers by refusing to bring to justice the culprits behind the incident. Although the world failed him, Ghassemlou did not fail the world, or his people, as his message for peace and freedom still lives. Like a garden that is nourished by many followers, so is his path to freedom and peace. As such, as the world gets to know Ghassemlou the man, and the leader, it is about time they got to know Ghassemlou the feminist.

Zakarya Khezeryan is a Kurdish Canadian who holds a Bachelor of Arts Honors Degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario, with a background in international relations, economics, linguistics and philosophy. He is currently pursuing postgraduate studies in international development, with the ultimate focus of researching the link between underdevelopment and the Kurdish liberation movement.