By Azad Amin
Gender issue and to be more precise gender equality is just as important as other national issues in Kurdistan. Failing to provide a secure environment for women to enjoy their lives in Kurdistan, failing to provide women equal opportunities to improve their social, economic and political status in the society, and failing to work towards gender equality will prevent the formation of a fair, democratic state in Kurdistan.
The gender issue in Kurdistan is highly complex and interwoven with the politics of Kurdish nationalism, national liberation movement and the formation of a new political entity in Kurdistan since 2003. Rise of Islam and Islamic-oriented political groupings in Iraqi politics following the fall of Saddam's Baath in parallel with the rise of fundamental Islam throughout the Middle East could impede the progression of female equality in Kurdistan.
To improve gender equality and to address burning questions radiating around women independent women organizations in Kurdistan are and will be important components. The Kurdistan regional government, KRG, has to work harder and in coordination with the organizations and judiciary to address some of the serious issues regarding the woman question, particularly the 'honor killings'.
KRG has taken some serious steps in this regard. Last August, the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Council of Ministers established a Women's Rights Monitoring Board, a new monitoring body established to protect women's rights. The aim of the monitoring body is to improve the government's policies towards women's issues and provide a safe and happy environment for women in society and within their families. The KRG prime minister will lead the monitoring body meeting once a month. The Board is a forum designed to coordinate several key ministries in the task of improving gender politics in Kurdistan. It brings together the Women's Council, Public Prosecution Office, Justice, Interior, Labor and Social affairs, Planning, Health, Education and Higher Education as well as the Religious Affairs Ministry. It meets every month and is chaired by the PM and attended by KRG Senior International Advisor on higher education and gender, Dr Nazand Begikhani.
The KRG and particularly the Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani have taken serious steps and measures to prevent honor killings. "Honor killing is a crime and we will not allow it. The courts in Kurdistan will punish anyone who commits this crime. We do not deny our shortcomings, however the KRG is determined to eradicate this issue. We ask civil organizations and religious leaders to cooperate with us in this plan," the Kurdish premier stated. Despite this determination the incidents still are occurring in Kurdistan.
Sakar Hama Amin is a good example of this. Amin was a 28-year-old teacher, who was shot in her family home and died in hospital two days later. Her father was arrested as the main suspect and her mother was the main witness. Sakar Hama Amin was reportedly in love with a man who wanted to marry her, but her father stood against the relationship. According to women's rights activists in Kurdistan, the victim's mother was reportedly placed under pressure to withhold testimony. Sakar's father was found "not guilty" by a Sulaimani court on Tuesday 11 September. The court decision was sharply criticized and protested by women advocates and organizations. The issue was discussed at a Women's Rights Monitoring Board (WRMB) meeting headed by the Prime Minister who called "We applaud civil society groups advocating justice for Sakar Hama Amin and join them in demanding justice."
Amin's case and others indicate that there must be a serious coordination between government departments, judiciary and women rights groups. Penal code and regulations have to be reviewed in order prevent committers of honor killings to exploit shortcomings of existing legal codes and laws.
Honor killings as a phenomena cannot be eradicated from Kurdish society overnight, it requires times and serious efforts to reduce them gradually. Applying legal preventive measures is necessary but will not be enough alone. The government must pay attention to education and must add existing curriculum gender issues in order to raise awareness on this issue right from an early period of education process.
Cases like Sakar Hama Amin should not be left astray but followed up and the government must be pressured to find those guilty and bring them back to justice.