Kurdish women


Kurdish women

Kurdish women (Kurdish: "Jinên/Afiretên Kurd") have traditionally played important roles in Kurdish history, society and politics.

Historical Accounts

In Politics

Sharaf ad-Din Bitlisi's 1597 "Sharafnāma" mentions three Kurdish women assuming power in Kurdish principalities. Evliya Çelebi also noted that Kurdish women did occasionally assume power in Kurdistan and Ottoman authorities accepted the succession in those principalities by a female ruler.Citation
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title =Encyclopaedia of women & Islamic cultures
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In Society and Literature

According to the Kurdish writer Mahmud Bayazidi, the Kurdish women did not veil and they participated in social activities such as work, dancing and singing together with men [Citation
last =Bayazidi
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year =1859
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title =Customs and manners of the Kurds
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] . In traditional Kurdish literature, both matriarchal and patriarchal tendencies are found. In the Ballad of "Las and Khazal" ("Beytî Las û Xezal"), female tribal rulers openly compete over a lover, while in patriarchal contexts, women are subject to the male violence.

Accounts of Western Travelers

European travelers have mentioned that Kurdish women enjoyed more freedom than their Persian, Arab or Turkish counterparts. They have also noted the absence of veil, free association with males (such as strangers and guests), and female rulers [M. Galletti, "Western Images of woman's role in Kurdish society" in Women of a non-state nation, The Kurds, ed. by Shahrzad Mojab, Costa Mesa Publishers, 2001, pp.209-225.] . Vladimir Minorsky has reported several cases of Kurdish women running the affairs of their tribes. He met one of these female chiefs named "Lady Adela" in the region of Halabja in 1913. She was known for saving lives of many British army officers during World War I and was awarded the title of "Khan-Bahadur" by the British commander [V. Minorsky, "The Tribes of Western Iran", The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, pp.73-80, 1945. (p.78)] .

Kurdish Women in Iraq

The prominent Kurdish poet Goran denounced discrimination and violence against women. The first journal for Kurdish women, "Dengî Afiret" "Woman's Voice", was published in 1953. Following the overthrow of monarchy in 1958, the Union of Kurdish Women lobbied for legal reform in the Iraqi civil law and it succeeded in bringing marriage under civil control and abolishing honor killing. The first female judge in Middle East was a Kurdish woman named "Zakiyya Hakki" who was appointed by Abd al-Karim Qasim. She later became part of the leadership of KDP [ [http://globalpolitician.com/25202-iraq Women in the New Iraq] , by Judith Colp Rubin, Global Politician, September 2008.] .

During the Anfal campaign in 1988, Kurdish women were kept in concentration camps and rape was used as a form of punishment. In 1994, Kurdish women marched for peace from Sulaimaniya to Arbil and protested against the civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan. After the establishment of KRG, women were able to form their own organizations and several women became ministers in the cabinet of local government. In September 2003, Nasrin Berwari was appointed to the 25-member Iraq provisional cabinet as minister of municipalities and public works, and in June 2004, she was among six women named to the 30-member transitional cabinet and in April 2005 was named permanently to that post. As the top Iraqi official in charge of municipal and environmental affairs, Berwari is considered as one of the most important figures in the Iraqi civil administration [ [http://globalpolitician.com/25202-iraq Women in the New Iraq] , by Judith Colp Rubin, Global Politician, September 2008.] .

Kurdish Women in Turkey

In 1919, Kurdish women formed their first organization, the "Society for the Advancement of Kurdish Women", in Istanbul. [Citation
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title =Kurdish women, A New Force in Kurdistan
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During the revolts of 1925-1937, the army targeted Kurdish women, many of who committed suicide to escape rape and abuse [Citation
last =MacDowall
first =David
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title =A Modern History of the Kurds
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] . By the mid-1990s, thousands of women had joined the ranks of PKK, and the mainstream media began a campaign of vilifying them as "prostitutes". In 1996, Kurdish women formed their own feminist associations and journals such as "Roza" and "Jujin" [Citation
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] .

Leyla Zana became the first Kurdish woman elected to Parliament of Turkey in 1991. During her inauguration speech, she identified herself as a Kurd and spoke in Kurdish. She was subsequently stripped of her immunity and sentenced to 15 years in prison. She was recognized by the Amensty International as a prisoner of conscience and was awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Union in 1995.

Kurdish Women in Iran

During World War I, Kurdish women suffered from attacks of Russian and Turkish armies. In 1915, Russian army massacred the male population of Mahabad and abused two hundred women. Reza Shah issued his decree for coercive unveiling of women in 1936. According to government correspondence, there was no need for unveiling in Kurdistan, since women were usually unveiled. Nevertheless, government treated the colorful traditional Kurdish female custome as "ugly and dirty" and it had to be replaced with "civilized"(i.e. Western) dress. Kurds called this forced dress as Ajami rather than European ["Violence and culture: Confidential records about the abolition of hijab 1934-1943", Iran National Archives, Tehran, 1992, pp.171, 249-250, 273.] [ [http://www.utoronto.ca/wwdl/publications/english/mojab_introduction.pdf The Solitude of the Stateless: Kurdish Women at the Margins of Feminist Knowledge] ] .

Republic of Mahabad encouraged women's participation in public life and KDPI launched a political party for women which promoted education for females and rallied their support for the republic [S. Mojab, "Women and Nationalism in the Kurdish Republic of 1946" in Women of a non-state nation, The Kurds, ed. by Shahrzad Mojab, Costa Mesa Publishers, 2001, pp.71-91] . In August 1979, the Iranian Army launched an offensive to destroy the autonomist movement in Kurdistan. Kurdish organizations such as Komala recruited hundreds of women into their military and political ranks. Within its own camps, Komala abolished gender segregation and women took part in combat and military training.

Over the years, Kurdish women assumed more roles in the Iranian society and by 2000, a significant number of Kurdish women had become part of the labor force, while an increasing number of females engaged in intellectual activities such as poetry, writing and music. On the other hand, discriminatory laws against women and domestic violence forced many women to commit suicide, most commonly through self-immolation. [Citation
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] [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/2/C43C681F-0AD1-49B6-AADB-3784CA430536.html Iran: Self-Immolation Of Kurdish Women Brings Concern (2006)] ]

Renowned Kurdish Women

Asenath Barzani was among the first female Rabbis in history. "Mestureh Ardalan"(1805 -1848) was a Kurdish poet and writer. She is well known for her literary works. "Lady Adela", Leyla Zana, Leyla Qasim and Feleknas Uca are among the well known women for their role in the modern Kurdish and European politics.

Pêşmerge Women

Pêşmerge forces have a female combat unit called "The "Pêşmerge" Force for Women". Kurdish women have struggled hard to prove their worth as tough soldiers in a traditional society and they have earned a reputation for bravery and skill in the battlefield. While they were engaged in previous battles such as capture of Sulaimaniya in 1992, the first official female unit of the Pêşmerge was formed in 1996. Pêşmerge women are sometimes compared with Amazons [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/sites/newport/pages/article_peshmerga.shtml Warrior Women] By Anastasia Taylor-Lind, BBC Wales, 2003.] .

References


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