Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Monday, November 26, 2012

Women, Life and Freedom in Kurdistan, International Day to End Violence Against Women

"Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. [...] We must fundamentally challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence to continue. On this International Day, I call on all governments to make good on their pledges to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, and I urge all people to support this important goal."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2012

Women's activists have marked 25 November as a day against violence since 1981. This date came from the brutal assassination in 1960, of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).

Today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence, is a day to remember those women who have fallen victims of violence. Here in Iraqi-Kurdistan, women know violence very well; they are killed in honor related violence, as a cleansing for family’s honor. That is acceptable in Kurdish society, dominated by patriarchal and tribal customs.  If a woman is a “bad woman”, she is to be killed; the problem is that being a bad woman means not submitting to local customs of early or force marriage, or even being raped.

Today, in Suleimaniya, in Iraqi-Kurdistan, women, men and children gathered to hold a memorial for those women killed in honor related violence, among them Mamosta Sakar (28) and Nigar (15), killed earlier this year. Suleimaniya, in one hand is one of Iraqi-Kurdistan more progressive cities, with a lot of women advocating for freedom and equality, on the other hand it has to deal with one of the highest incidence of honor killings.

Memorial for Kurdish women victims of honor killings
Children were also speaking out against violence
 The memorial testified to the continuous women injustice in the form of rape and murders. Men stood around looking at the names laying on the floor besides flowers and women shoes. Holding banners and pictures on the street, people stopped Suleimaniya’s main street traffic for a couple of minutes, chanting “ Women, Life, Freedom” and “ Stop the Killing of Women”. One of those caught in traffic yelled: “Four women are worth one man”.

On the sidewalk, some children also gathered holding the pictures of the women murdered and even a little girl, maybe a year old joined them, holding in her little hands the picture of Mamosta Sakar as if saying: I am protesting the killing of women, I want to have my rights when I grow up. The event closed with participants letting free white balloons on to the sky, symbolizing the white ribbon campaign. 
Women and men stopped traffic on Suleimaniya's Main Street to demand the end of women killing and freedom and respect for women. November 25th, 2012

My voice counts, stop killing women in Kurdistan.
Photo by Johanna Rivera, People Development Association, Suleimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan
A baby holding a picture of Mamosta Sakar, murdered by her father in the village of Sarkapkan on Feb. 5th 2012
Photo by Johanna Rivera, People Development Association, Suleimaniya, Iraqi-Kurdistan

The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) is the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women (VAW). In over fifty-five countries, campaigns are led by both men and women, even though the focus is on educating men and boys. Photo: Johanna Rivera

Women rights organizations that organized this event are part of Zhiyan Group, a group that was formed in August 2012 with more than 60 organizations that are advocating against honor killing in Kurdistan.

How long are we going to keep silence and be complicit against the killing and violence against women?

From peace at home to peace in the society
Bahar Munzir, reading the press release about the activities in the International Day to End Violence Against Women. The activities will be running for 16 days.

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