“(…) the condition of women has become a disaster in the postwar era. Violence towards women throughout Iraq covers a wide range of practices, including honor killings, family pressure to commit suicide, forced marriages and domestic violence. Strict gender roles make women (and above all, their bodies and sexuality) a repository of the “honor” of the family, community, nation and so on. This is used to prevent them from being able to make decisions for themselves and others. Deviations from gender roles are often punished by the victims’ own inner circles.
There are no accurate statistics for violence against women in Iraq, making it difficult to deal with the problem. In spite of limited data, all agree that the violence is widespread. Some analysts claim, with reference to Unifem, that there are at least 400 honor killings a year; but most honor killings, suicides and other acts against women go unreported. In fact, after natural causes, honor killings are thought to be one of the leading causes of death for women in Kurdistan.
These figures stand in sharp contrast to the relatively few fatalities by terrorism in Kurdistan, though the government dedicates considerable resources to preventing it. The government has failed, meanwhile, to institute civil protections for women or prosecute these sorts of crimes. All of this must be seen within the broader picture of women’s exclusion from politics, in spite of the 30% quota introduced by Kurdish government.
As Islamic authorities climb to power across the post-Arab spring’s Middle East, there is a real fear that even the limited civil protections women hold will be swept away under the influence of strict religious laws, exacerbated by the culture of violence and the conservative religious and tribal structures that have grown stronger in the past decade.
In Kurdistan, religious parties still don’t have the majority support; instead, issues of national independence have long been at the heart of Kurdish issues. But the urgency of the national question has faded together with dissatisfaction with the ruling parties, and sympathy for religious groups is mounting. In this context, the future for women looks very dark indeed.
If everyone in Iraq desired a common destiny based on respect for human rights and transparent justice, in place of a pattern of revenge, the nation would have immediately risen to the challenges of reconciling factions and building bridges: Baghdad and Kurdistan with each other, and Iraq and with its neighbors. Iraqis should have felt such weariness with their long legacy of suffering that we should have given up the path of conflict and violence. Alas, this never happened.”