12/08/2012 RUDAW By SORAN BAHADDIN – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—One week after its foundation, women’s rights organization Zhiyan [Life] Group organized a demonstration against honor killing in the Kurdistan Region. The demonstrators condemned the killing of Nigar Rahim, a Kurdish girl in the Garmiyan region, who was raped by one of her brothers and later killed by another.
The spokesperson for Zhiyan called on all the civil organizations in Kurdistan to join her group in its campaign. Data from civil and human rights organizations showed a decline in cases of honor killing in the Kurdistan. However, the past few weeks the region witnessed the killing of several women in various areas, including one entire family in Kirkuk.
This raised fresh debate among women’s organizations and the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG]. Headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani last week, women’s rights activists held a meeting in Erbil and established a women’s rights monitoring body to improve the government’s policies towards women’s issues and provide a safe and happy environment for women within their families.
Independently, Zhiyan Group brought under its umbrella a number of organizations in Sulaimani and Garmiyan beginning of this month to work on reducing violence against women.The group’s first activity was a campaign against the killing of Nigar Rahim in the town of Kalar. The demonstrators waved banners that read, ‘no to honor killing’ and ‘enough killing women’. Dressed in white, the demonstrators carried portraits of Nigar and marched to her gravesite where they placed flowers in tribute.
In response to Nigar’s case a group of organizations released a statement, saying, “We will work together within the group with the purpose of reducing violence against women and launch a social and legal investigation into honor killings in Kurdistan.”
Bahar Munzir, the spokeswoman for the group, told Rudaw that currently more than 30 organizations, mostly from Sulaimani and Garmiyan, are members of her group. “We called on everyone to join the group,” Munzir said. “We also have informed international organizations.” Munzir added: “The international organizations based in Kurdistan don’t want to be part of it [our group] because they have relations with the government.”
Zhiyan Group has set up a Facebook page where the group’s activities are posted on a daily basis. With a supervising committee of 11 members, Munzir says the group will rely on individual donations to sustain itself. “We have not received any financial support from the government and don’t plan to ask the government for any financial support,” she said. “This way we can stay independent.”
Sozan Arif, head of women empowerment organization, believes the establishment of this group was necessary give the everyday threats and violence against women with no one to defend them.
“When a woman takes refuge in the women’s shelters from her family, her family can easily take her back and harm her later,” Arif said. “The government is responsible for people’s safety but it still happens. Therefore, it is necessary to have a voice that creates pressure and change. The formation of the group is a good step and we must all support it.” Arif believes group work is more effective and hopes that Zhiyan Group will expand its activities to all areas of Kurdistan and not just Sulaimani or Garmiyan.
The group’s spokeswoman says, “We have asked organizations based in Erbil and Duhok to join the group.”
Lieutenant Sarkawt Omer, director of the department of follow up on violence against women in Sulaimani, believes the new group can assist the government in establishing a new education system that will help reduce violence against women. “It is easy to hold a demonstration, but it is not effective,” Omer said. “They demand legal actions against the killers, and that’s the police’s duty to carry out.”Omer said that women’s organizations need to take action before the killing happens. “Taking actions after the murder is like a headache pill (temporary relief). We don’t take pride in something that is our duty. However, what these women’s organizations do is just for publicity. It is important to take actions before the violence happens.”