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Home arrow Women arrow What is the Future for Kurdish Women
What is the Future for Kurdish Women چاپ ارسال به دوست
Ghomri Rostampour   

What is the Future for Kurdish Women?

Disclaimer:The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the official opinion of the VOKRadio. 

By: Ghomri Rostampour

November 29, 2017 

 The impact of patriarchy will damage women's character and society in two specific areas: The first aspect of patriarchy is the dominance of male over female. The second is the dominance that elders impose upon the younger generation. For Kurdish women, not only "patriarchy" but also state, religious, tradition and gender discrimination have further damaged and eroded their identity. This study focuses on the future of Kurdish women and the recovery from this. Brief references to the geography of Kurdistan and the history of cultural uprisings can help to understand these arguments better.

Kurdistan is one of the most ancient areas in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Kurdistan was separated from the other societies by colonial intrigue, genocide, and ignorance of the past governments. Kurds before Islam and after Islam had many uprisings: The first Kurd, Amir Badr Khan, ascended to power in 1821. He would not submit to current Ottoman's Amir. He established the properties of a kingdom, and among those he set forth were minting currency and reading sermons of his accomplishments. He extended his territory from East into the depths of the borders of Iran and from West to Mesopotamia. He occupied the Christian territories in 1843. In 1846 he attempted to attack the Christians, which had deadly consequences for him. In August 1848, he surrendered himself to Osman Pasha. At the end of his life, he was exiled to the island of Crete and Damascus, where he died in 1870.
During this period of time, the role of a woman was limited to jobs within the household, such as agriculture, ranching, baking bread, and managing the household, which often required many different skill sets. While holding down the society, they were denied political and cultural capital. Some Kurdish women, such as Mastureh Ardalan, managed to rise to positions of status outside the home. She was Kurdish poet, historian, writer, and advocate who lived from 1805 to 1848. She was a well-known author in her time and historians often refer to her work when chronicling these times. Through the next decades, power struggles continued as leadership was passed from France to England, and the Kurdish people continued to be treated as second-class citizens. Nobody felt the harsh sting of this oppression more than women.
In short, all uprisings in Kurdistan have led to the same result, in four words: uprising, combat, oppression, and genocide. In all of the repression, Great Britain's two-faced approach was more than evident. Since then, deadly silence for half a century has inflicted the Kurdish areas in Turkey and beyond. 
Uprisings in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria have all detrimentally impacted the Kurdish people. Some of these include: Mullah Mustafa Barzani revolt in 1934 to 1943, revived the uprising correspondence and negotiations with Britain and the Soviet Union diplomatically and, eventually militarily. Until recently, Massoud Barzani (PDKI) was continuing this movement, and in 2000 Kurdish women's rights organizations successfully achieved these changes: the report of prosecution of honor crimes was low (Amnesty International 2009). 
The Ghazi Mohammad's movement led an important revolt: it started when he announced the formation of the Republic of Kurdistan on January 22, 1946, at the four lights square in Mahabad. For the first time in the Kurdish history movements, he had a regular army with 1,200 soldiers, 700 officers, and 40 commissioners. Ghadamkheir was one of the Kurdish woman fighters against Reza Shah's unjust government. She fought bravely for five years against Reza Shah and then the king had no choice to invite her to the plot for peace negotiation. Unfortunately, 17 commanders of the uprising were executed and thus ended their revolt. Ghadamkheir was arrested and imprisoned for life. During the 1990s, Kurdish women's rights activists asked for equality in marriage and divorce, and Jalal Talabani signed Resolution 62 (2000), which made taking more than one wife punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars (N. al-Ali, N. Pratt). Jalal Talabani was in power as president of Iraq since 2005. 
Perhaps all efforts are in vain; terrible wars and Kurds bloodshed still goes on and continues to humiliate and absolutely devastate them. Turkish commentators basically are denying even the existence of the Kurds, and calling Kurds "Mountain Turks" as a way to humiliate them. In 1970, all this oppression, degradations, and ignorance led to another leader who came to the political scene with the ideas of Marxism combined with nationalism. According to Shahrzad Mojab, "The Kurds constitute one of the largest non-state nations of the world." With a population of approximately 35 million, they are the fourth largest ethnic people in the Middle East, outnumbered only by Arabs, Turks, and Persians. They were forcibly divided, in 1918, among the centralist ‘nation-states' of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, with a population of about a million dispersed in Caucasian countries such as Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and in old and new diasporas in Central Asia, Europe, North America, Australia, Central Asia, and elsewhere.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê‎), led by Abdullah Ocalan, is the largest subculture organization led by guerillas warriors, in which women feel that their identities and their dignities are respected because women's rights and gender equality are advocated by PKK's manifesto. In other countries and cultures in the Middle East, rulers use Islam as a way to silence women's voices and limit their rights. Therefore, the PKK is exemplary in this way. They endeavored to allow women to prove their equality, showing that a woman can be a fighter, a soldier, and a protector. 
The Kurds were subjected to various degrees of genocide, ethnocide, and linguicide (see, for example, Fernandes 1998-99. On the genocide of the Kurds in Turkey from 1924 to 1998; White 1999, on the exclusion of the Kurds from citizenship). Western powers and some academics specializing in the region deny that the Turkish state, past and present, has had the ‘intent' of unleashing genocide. The Iraqi regime's 1988 genocidal campaign, Anfal, was recognized as such only after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, an event which instantly turned him into an enemy of the United States (Shahrzad Mojab).
An example of the impact of this turmoil is the transformation of the Kurdish language. Although the regimes governing Kurdistan have limited the ability of both men and woman to read and write in the Kurdish language, Kurdish women have been forced to study a language other than their native language. However, mothers have played a huge role in saving the endangered Kurdish language. That is why most of the Kurdish women can speak three or four languages fluently, and this gave Kurdish women the ability to have great interaction with women of different cultures and nations. This ability gave them the opportunity to become financially secure as they were able to enter the workplace. Kurdish women have migrated to Europe and America and to other countries of the world. This has resulted in their becoming more international.
In 1962, the Syrian government withdrew the Kurds from the list of Syrian citizens and deprived them of ID card recognition. During a street battle in the city of Qamishli in March 2004, more than 30 Syria's Kurd were killed by police and hundreds more were injured. And they did not leave any trace of the Kurdistan historical heritage.
Again, the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq was completely destroyed with chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein carried out a massacre against Kurds, which was unprecedented in the history of recent centuries. More than 180 thousand Kurds were killed in northern Iraq while superpower countries and the Arab League backed Saddam. Iraqi Kurdistan is accused of genocide of Kurds. Another big mass killing Anfal, but still, the women's movement was not silent.
On May 12, 1974, women like Leyla Qasim, a Kurdish activist against the Iraqi Baath regime, was executed in Baghdad. She is known as a national martyr among the Kurds. Kurdish leaders and activists faced the same dangers outside of their own country. For instance. three women were killed in France: Sakine Cansız was shot dead in Paris, France, on January 9, 2013, along with two other Kurdish activists, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez.
The most recent Kurdish leader, The HDP (Peoples' Democratic Party), was founded in 2012, an operated from 2013 to 2015, with one chairman and one chairwoman (Selahattin Demirtash and Figen Yüksekdag, respectively) until Yüksekdağ's parliamentary membership was revoked on February 21, 2017. The HDP participated in peace negotiations with the Turkish government on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) separatist militant organization, with which it is accused of having direct links.
Both Komala party of Iranian Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), working towards the same goals with this difference that Komala stressed the equality of men and women more. Those historic uprisings are still active in the Kurdistan with more branches (Democrats: Mustafa Hijri, Mustafa Mouloudi, Aaso Hassan zadeh & Komola: Ebrahim Alizadeh & Abdullah Mohtadi) even in the foreign countries where Kurds live. 
Generations of women spent their lives with other tasks such as carpet weaving, sewing and lived in very poor conditions in which they were forced to raise their children. Regime change also did not stop and Kurds were exiled. Tens and hundreds of families were forced from their homes into the remote towns. On August 28, 1979, many youth and women all over Kurdistan were arrested and tortured by the executioner of Islamic Republic of Iran (Mohammed Sadeq Givi Khalkhali). Most of them imposed death sentences and carried out without trial and the rest are still in Iranian jails.
Kurdish women were under the rule of five different political regimes and, in addition, subjected to various oppressions, including class, national, tradition, religious, and so on, which led to much confusion. Gender oppression should be noted as a major problem in the Kurdish society, which has been around as long as the society has fought to define itself. Struggle to meet the limitations of national oppression has always been an integral struggle of this society, with each new generation of leaders leaving their own mark on the ideology of the Kurdish people.
Now, this struggle has newer dimensions, such as the rights of the oppressed, the elimination of national oppression, and gender oppression. Gender oppression has a long history in Kurdistan. Fighting this injustice is the history of this struggle, often secondary to attaining the national government. All the demands of the women's movement were expressed at the same time and aligned with the demands of national, religious, and class. The history of Kurdish women's struggles and their efforts has proven that, regardless of women's rights, democratic governance in Kurdistan will not be recognized.
A brief reference to the history of the struggles and aspirations of women will reveal this clearly. Women participated in the various wars, commonly dressing in the clothes of men and using male identities. Mothers at home alone joined with men in the ranks of the struggle, preparing the children to survive and continue to live and ultimately to survive as a nation. Women endured the most arduous life: unemployment, war, rape, starvation, the devastation of cultural heritage, and displacement. 
Historians have rarely included struggles of women and they have not considered women trying to survive the nation and the new generation. Kurdish female political, economic, social, military, and educational history is missed and lost. Because our historians predominantly are male and they are writing their own history of war and recording it in his own name, women's strife and struggle will and be neglected in the way. Kurdish women, like every other woman in the world, wish to stand up to get their rights and fight. However, the Kurdish women's movement has no central government and no support from the state, resulting in serious danger, death, dying, and destruction.
Kurdish women have the experience and the history of their struggles, such as Roshan Xan, a poet, and journalist; Maryam Khan and Gulbahar Khan, singer euphonious and popular; Samira Abdvk, who in 1954 enriched the history of Kurdish theater and cinema. Until then, men wore women's clothes and they played the women role.
Finally, there is Ms. Ronak Yassin (1920-2002), a researcher, mythology historian, critic, and professor at Harvard and Dublin. Ronak Yassin taught for 30 years in the fields of language and literature, English, French, Latin, Russian, linguistics, and mythology at prestigious universities. The works of this Kurdish writer and researcher total 110 articles, including analysis of the research literature and mythology, a series of literary criticism, reviews of the myths from Egypt to China, narrated stories, memoirs of a Kurdish peasant, and a collection of critical articles about the mafia's power and buried democracy. Her image was imprinted on the cover of the latest issue of The New York magazine. In the same year, 1972, she was one of the candidates for the Pulitzer Prize.


Kurdish women, despite the heavy pressure of daily life and government oppression, have contributed in the fields of cinema, media, art, music, higher education, technology, politics, and war. For instance, in spite of deadly repression in Republican Turkey, Leyla Zana, a Kurdish Parliamentary woman in Turkey, read the oath in the Turkish senate in the Kurdish Language, and that's why they imprisoned her for several years. The Kurdish female fighters of the YPJ/YJA-Star women's guerrilla units have in recent events gained global recognition as one of the prime group of combatants fighting against the extremist terror group, Isis. (Meral Duzgun).
Emphasizing the achievements of these women, past, and present, solidarity among Kurdish women with different backgrounds is a great honor that should be noticed. For instance, in May 1994, the PUK and KDP went to war against one another, leading to the division of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1999 and the deaths of hundreds of Kurds. Simultaneously, Kurdish Islamist groups gained influence and, sponsored by Iran, attempted to Islamize Kurdish society. Many Kurdish women marched between Sulaimaniyah and Erbil in 1994 to demand peace and reconciliation between the two parties (Mojab 2004: 129). The more recent massacre of 2015 and the ongoing siege of Kobani and Shingal - all provide horrific examples of the systematic ethnic cleansing (Meral Duzgun). 
With pressure from all sides, Kurdish women had obtained considerable success. Continuous protests from Kurdish women's' rights groups have reduced honor killings, the marriage of girls at an early age, circumcision, forced marriages, and polygamy. Kurdish women have a variety of rights organizations (civil, political, etc.) in Kurdistan as well as in countries abroad that strive to combat crimes against women. Technology and social media have played an important role in applying Kurdish women's' voices to the world. Kurdish women are active in all areas of art, music, education, politics, economics, business, as well as serving in the military. If they feel that they are in danger of asking for their rights, they can seek asylum in another country.


Now, the Kurdish immigrant women are studying in a prestigious university, focusing on women's' issues and other fields of study. These universities provide them with research facilities and also allow them to do fieldwork. Kurdish women grow up with a gun, always ready to defend themselves, and a warrior and militarism sense provokes a sense of security in her. She must protect herself against patriarchy and gender and ethnic discrimination. The women who serve in the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government's military force (women comprise a majority of the force) are well-trained and disciplined because of the instruction and command and of the United States military forces. These Kurdish women guerrillas, who have joined the movement, draw this commitment to fight for their youth and strong faith in the movement. 
The multiplicity of religions in the Kurdish region, in which religion and the state are not separate, makes it very difficult to apply a law that is accepted and followed by all. One religious group's belief can differ markedly from another religious group regarding issues pertaining to marriage, divorce, a child's right to legal representation, the right to property, and inheritance, etc. For this reason, judges and lawyers are facing a major challenge.
Feminism is a new phenomenon and a most-important movement that was not practiced in Kurdistan until 2003. Kurdish women today face a host of obstacles, but the most important remains gender discrimination. This has resulted in new approaches to feminism - radical feminism, liberal feminism, and socialist-Marxist feminism - each of which claims a different approach to combating gender oppression. Specifically, Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Syria are experiencing those feminist doctrines. Marxist feminism is the most powerful among them and, mixed with a sense of nationalism, will help guide the movement toward an independent Kurdistan. Patriarchy remains an obstacle, as well as the existence of multiple religions and gender discrimination. Furthermore, the relationship between Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the Kurdish nation is not favorable.
In summary, as a woman in Kurdistan, if you are not a member of one of the Kurdish political parties you are considered a third-class citizen. Despite all efforts in Kurdistan, the threats towards women are still louder than their own voices. To eliminate sexual oppression, we should not wait for the national government. This is a human condition and must be a priority. Without regard to women's rights, no democratic government will be recognized. Therefore, stateless Kurdish women must be supported by an International law. Whether equality is granted will require a lot of effort. Otherwise, any delay for Kurdish women in receiving their gender rights will mean a delay in the formation of an independent Kurdistan.


1- Agha, Shaikh and State: The Social and Political Structures of. Kurdistan, Martin van Bruinessen, London: Zed Books, 1992
2- Between Nationalism and Women's Rights: The Kurdish Women's Movement in Iraq. Nadje al-Ali a and Nicola Pratt, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK
3- The Kurdish Women's Movement: Challenging Gendered Militarization and the Nation-State,. Meral Duzgun, University of Westminster (UK)
4- The Kurdish Nationalist Movement: Opportunity, Mobilization and Identity,David Romano, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006
5- The Kurdish tragedy, Abdullah Keykhosravi, Farsi 
6-  Women of a Non-state Nation, Shahrzad Mojab, Mazda Publishers, 2001





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