VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN : A message from the Grave

On November 26th a conference was held in Arbil, commemorating the International Day of Combating Violence against Women. The Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government attended as well as members of Parliament and representatives from various consulates. Shanga Rahim, Member of Women Legal Assistance (WOLA), addressed this conference on behalf of the civil society and women’s organizations in Iraqi-Kurdistan.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are here today to communicate a message by Sakar and Negar, who were victims of so called honor killings. This message was written on behalf of all the 19 ‘sisters’ of Sakar and Negar (as they call them) who were killed too during the last few months for various allegations in Kurdistan.

This is what Sakar and Negar wants us all to hear:

Respected members of conference; we hope you would be able to genuinely convince us that you believe in women rights and that you are unequivocally committed to fight violence and injustice against women. We also hope that your gathering in this nice and decorated building will be used to engage in intellectual reflections, thinking and planning about serious future tasks.

We hope that it would not be an occasion to only spend time and socially interact which result in unfulfilled promises as were the cases in previous experiences with such events. We express this anxiety because previous commitments and promises were not effective in preventing the killing of thousands and the self-burning of many other thousands of our sisters. Our concern and anxiety is even more justified when considering the extent of other prevalent forms of violence against women in Kurdistan including polygamy, physical and mental abuse, female genital mutilation, inequality in decision making and inequality in the application of laws.

We are convinced that you are telling yourselves that the Law number 8 of 2011 related to violence against women is a magical cure for all the ills plaguing women issues in Kurdistan.

First, let us send millions of salutes and congratulations to all of us for the passage of that law. Alas, the lack of political commitment, legal interest and administrative malaise is recognized when it comes to the implementation of the law. Neither the courts, nor the shelters, hospitals, police stations etc. are interested in or obliged to apply the law to their cases while some of them are unfortunately not even convinced by the need for such a law. Similar to the law number 15 of 2008 which legally improved the status of women and was and still is a great achievement too but is not implemented and applied in the courts and therefore it is no more than lip services without applicable benefits.

Unfortunately, the Kurdistan Regional Government, deliberately or otherwise is an active part of the violence and violations committed against women. The amnesty (general pardon) law number 2 of 2012 that pardoned many criminals who committed killing crimes against women is a stark example of the active contribution by the authorities in Kurdistan to killing and violence against women. We strongly demand the authorities to review their decisions and consider the consequences of their actions for women.

As civil society organizations, we argue that following this message from Sakar and Negar, we can and must work together to secure a better future for our generation and the next.

A future without violence against women can only be achieved through genuine and committed partnership and collaboration.

Thanks you very much for listening.