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Knowledge about the early history of Kurdish women is limited by both the dearth of records and the near absence of research. In 16th century , Prince Sharaf ad-Din Bitlisi wrote a book titled Sharafnama , which makes references to the women of the ruling landowning class, and their exclusion from public life and the exercise of state power.
It says that the Kurds of the Ottoman Empire, who follow Islamic tradition , took four wives and, if they could afford it, four maids or slave girls. This regime of polygyny was, however, practiced by a minority, which included primarily the members of the ruling landowning class, the nobility, and the religious establishment.
Sharaf ad-Din Bitlisi also mentioned three Kurdish women assuming power in Kurdish principalities after the death of their husbands in order to transfer it to their sons upon their adulthood. In the late 19th century, Lady Halima Khanim of Hakkari was the ruler of Bash Kala until she was forced to surrender to the Ottoman government after the suppression of the Bedir Khan revolt in A young Kurdish woman named Fatma became chief of the Ezdinan tribe in and she was known among her tribe as the queen.
During World War I , Russian forces negotiated safe passage through tribal territory with Lady Maryam of the famous Nehri family, who according to Basile Nikitine, wielded great authority among her followers.
Lady Adela , ruler of Halabja, exerted great influence in the affairs of the Jaff tribe in the Shahrazur plain on the Turco-Iranian frontier. The revival of commerce and restoration of law and order in the region of Halabja is attributed to her sound judgement. Lady Adela , called the "Princess of the Brave" by the British, was a famous and cultured chief of the Jaff tribe , one of the biggest Kurdish tribes , if not the biggest, native to the Zagros area, which is divided between Iran and Iraq.
Adela Khanem was of the famous aristocratic Sahibqeran family, who intermarried with the tribal chiefs of Jaff. In , Martin Van Bruinessen argued that Kurdish society was known as a male-dominated society, but we also find instances of Kurdish women becoming important political leaders. Asenath Barzani , who is considered the first female rabbi in Jewish history by some scholars, is believed to be the first known influential Kurdish woman in history.
She wrote many letters and published several publications in the 17th century. In , the Kurdish writer Mahmud Bayazidi mentioned the life of Kurdish women in tribal, nomadic and rural communities.
He noted that the majority of marriages were monogamous and Kurdish did not veil and they participated in social activities such as work, dancing and singing together with men. When the tribe was attacked, women took part in war alongside men. Mestureh Ardalan — was a Kurdish poet and writer.
She is well known for her literary works. European travelers sometimes noted the absence of veil, free association with males such as strangers and guests , and female rulers. He met one of these female chiefs named Lady Adela in the region of Halabja in She was known for saving the lives of many British army officers during World War I and was awarded the title of Khan-Bahadur by the British commander.
In , Kurdish women formed their first organization, the "Society for the Advancement of Kurdish Women", in Istanbul. During the revolts of —, the army targeted Kurdish women, many of whom committed suicide to escape rape and abuse.
The ascent to power of the Islamist conservative Justice and Development Party AKP in Turkey from brought with it a regressive agenda concerning women's role in society. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan infamously stated that "a woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete. Since its founding in , the Apoist militant guerilla Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK has attracted much interest among Kurdish women, who were an integral part of the movement all along.
They flee a conservative society where domestic violence is common and there is little opportunity for women. Other female guerillas are university graduates. They study Kurdish history and Ocalan, as well as the Marxist theories at the root of the PKK, and consider fighting as much an intellectual exercise as a physical one.
Many join because of relatives in prison, and others join to avoid prison. By the mids, thousands of women had joined the ranks of PKK, and the Turkish mainstream media began a campaign of vilifying them as "prostitutes". In , Kurdish women formed their own feminist associations and journals such as Roza and Jujin. However, eight Kurdish women stood successfully as independent candidates in the parliamentary election , joining the Democratic Society Party after they entered the Turkish parliament.
It has also increased the visibility of women in social life as well as the influence of women in political life," with female political candidates increasing significantly even in the ruling Islamist AKP party. In the Kurdish dominated south-east, among women, the rate of illiteracy in was nearly three times that of men. Especially in the east of the country the situation is worse: in Sirnak, 66, in Hakkari 58, and in Siirt, 56 per cent of women, aged 15, could not read and write.
In other provinces of the area it looked barely better. Also in southeastern Turkey, a report by the BBC estimated that almost a quarter of all marriages are polygamous. Even though it is illegal in Turkey, in practice polygamy is allowed to continue. Nick Read wrote in the BBC that in remote areas like south-east Anatolia, "Turkey risks antagonising Kurdish separatists by intervening in tradition and customs".
Violence against women motivated by a " Namus " based concept of honor of the family or clan have been described as endemic in Turkey, in particular in the Southeastern Anatolia Region , the predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey. The team interviewed perpetrators of honor killings and it also commented that the practice is not related to a feudal societal structure, "there are also perpetrators who are well-educated university graduates.
Of all those surveyed perpetrators, 60 percent are either high school or university graduates or at the very least, literate". In order to oppose the militant among Kurdish movements, the Turkish state has for decades been actively organizing and arming tribalist Kurdish forces under a " village guard system ". These guards have committed rape and 78 abductions.
Turkish courts have in some cases sentenced whole families to life imprisonment for an honor killing, in where a Turkish Court sentenced five members of a Kurdish family to life imprisonment for the honor killing of year old Naile Erdas, who got pregnant after she was raped. While Syria has developed some fairly secular features during independence in the second half of the 20th century, personal status law is still based on Sharia  and applied by Sharia Courts.
Kurdish women have several armed and non-armed organizations in Rojava, and enhancing women's rights is a major focus of the political and societal agenda. Kurdish female fighters in the Women's Protection Units YPJ played a key role during the Siege of Kobani and in rescuing Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar , and their achievements have attracted international attention as a rare example of strong female achievement in a region in which women are heavily repressed. The civil laws of Syria are valid in Rojava, as far as they do not conflict with the Constitution of Rojava.
One notable example for amendment is personal status law, in Syria still Sharia-based,   where Rojava introduced civil law and proclaims absolute equality of women under the law and a ban on forced marriage as well as polygamy was introduced,  while underage marriage was outlawed as well.
The legal efforts to reduce cases of underage marriage, polygamy and honor killings are underpinned by comprehensive public awareness campaigns. These are community centers run by women, providing services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of harm.
These services include counseling, family mediation, legal support, and coordinating safe houses for women and children. All administrative organs in Rojava are required to have male and female co-chairs, and forty percent of the members of any governing body in Rojava must be female.
The PYD's political agenda of "trying to break the honor-based religious and tribal rules that confine women" is controversial in conservative quarters of society. According to Zeynep N. Following the overthrow of the monarchy in , the Union of Kurdish Women lobbied for legal reform in the Iraqi civil law and succeeded in bringing marriage under civil control and abolishing honor killing.
Honor killings were a serious problem among Muslim communities until Iraq outlawed them. She later became part of the leadership of the KDP.
During the Anfal Campaign in , Kurdish women were kept in concentration camps and rape was used as a form of punishment. In , Kurdish women marched for peace from Sulaymaniyah to Erbil in protest against the civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan. Scholars such as Shahrzad Mojab and Amir Hassanpour have argued that the patriarchal system in Iraqi Kurdistan has been as strong as in other Middle Eastern regions.
After the establishment of Kurdistan Regional Government KRG , women were able to form their own organizations and several women became ministers in the cabinet of local government. In September , Nasrin Berwari was appointed to the member Iraq provisional cabinet as minister of municipalities and public works, and in June , she was among six women named to the member transitional cabinet and in April 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. Choman Hardi, the director of the Center of Gender and Development at the American University of Iraq - Sulaimani , "although the Kurdistan Regional Government wants to appear progressive and democratic, by granting women their rights, it's still quite superficial and women play a marginal role.
Women's rights activists have said that after the elections in , only five of the elected members of parliament were women, and that women's initiatives were even actively opposed by conservative Kurdish male politicians. While in the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Syria, women play a dominant role in Kurdistan Communities Union KCK affiliated Apoist parties and administrations as co-governors, co-mayors, or even commanded their own female combat units, this never happened in Iraqi Kurdistan, "because the political leadership itself is conservative and patriarchal".
About honour killings per year are reported in hospitals in Iraqi Kurdistan, although real numbers are likely much higher. He also said that the government figures are much lower, and show a decline in recent years, and Kurdish law has mandated since that an honor killing be treated like any other murder. The honor killing and self-immolation condoned or tolerated by the Kurdish administration in Iraqi Kurdistan has been labeled as "gendercide" by Mojab Other problems include domestic violence ,  female infanticide  and polygamy.
Some Kurdish women from uneducated, religious and poor families who took their own decisions with marriage or had affairs have become victims of violence, including beatings, honor killings and in extreme cases pouring acid on face only one reported case Kurdish Women's Rights Watch Al Jazeera also noted also that 3, women were killed as a result of domestic violence between and , and in , at least women in six cities in Iraqi Kurdistan committed suicide via self-immolation.
Rates of violence against women, female suicide and femicide in Iraqi Kurdistan increased sharply between and Almost women were set to fire by someone else in in the region. Al Jazeera also reported that "44 percent of married women reported being beaten by their husbands if they disobeyed his orders". Female genital mutilation is observed among some Sorani speaking Kurds, and Arabs in Iraq, including Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
According to the same survey, FGM has declined in recent years. Kurdish human rights organizations have reported several times that FGM is not a part of Kurdish culture and authorities are not doing enough to stop it completely.
According to a report in the Washington Post , the Kurdistan region of Iraq is one of the few places in the world where female genital mutilation had been rampant. Female genital mutilation is prevalent in Iraqi Kurdistan and among Iraqis in central Iraq. Due wars and the unstable situation of country, fighting against FGM has been difficult for authorities of Iraq.
In , Russian army massacred the male population of Mahabad and abused two hundred women. Reza Shah issued his decree for coercive unveiling of women in Government treated the colorful traditional Kurdish female custome as ugly and dirty and it had to be replaced with civilized i. Western dress. Kurds called this forced dress as Ajami rather than European. 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.
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. In , Kurdish researcher Amir Hassanpour claimed that "while it is not unique to the Kurdish case,linguistic, discursive, and symbolic violence against women is ubiquitous" in the Kurdish language, matched by various forms of physical and emotional violence.
Over the years, Kurdish women assumed more roles in the Iranian society and by , 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, some reports have been made about domestic violence which has led women to commit suicide, most commonly through self-immolation.
It is believed that Iran's Islamic culture has been one of the main reasons. According to LandInfo, in Iran, honour killings occur primarily among tribal minority groups, such as Kurdish, Lori, Arab, Baluchi and Turkish-speaking tribes.
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We have come to this autonomous region in northern Iraq as social anthropologists to research violence against women — particularly, honor killings — by interviewing local experts, including United Nations personnel. We were told by a Kurdish man here that women have no value. And it is his right to control women, because this is the religion — the Koran says so. We wanted to document why honor killings and honor suicides are continuing in Kurdistan if not on the rise, some people say. Honor killings are the killing of a relative, usually a girl or a woman, who is perceived to have brought shame to the family, often from breaking codes of morality regarding her sexual behavior or more ordinary acts.
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U.S. Kurd Not Keen on Sexual Equality, So He Goes Home to Find Traditional Wife
Kurdish marriage arrangements are very complex and defined by tribal traditions. Almost all Kirmanji-, Sorani-, Zaza-, and Gorani-speaking Kurds are historically tribal people, and tribal traditions continue to affect the daily experiences of tribal, as well as nontribal Kurds, who live in both rural and urban areas. The term mal also means a lineage in Kurdish. A lineage is a group of people who descend from a common ancestor. According to tribal ideology, brothers, father, and sons are joined in a single group, creating a division within the tribe against the father's brother and his sons.
Knowledge about the early history of Kurdish women is limited by both the dearth of records and the near absence of research. In 16th century , Prince Sharaf ad-Din Bitlisi wrote a book titled Sharafnama , which makes references to the women of the ruling landowning class, and their exclusion from public life and the exercise of state power. It says that the Kurds of the Ottoman Empire, who follow Islamic tradition , took four wives and, if they could afford it, four maids or slave girls.
From to , they helped overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, battled al-Qaeda , and pushed the Islamic State out of northern Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, some of these same fierce fighters have been violently clashing with Turkish troops in the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin. Reports of chemical weapons and a high civilian death toll are now emerging from the conflict zone.
A naturalized U. As a self-employed businessman, he could afford to take several months off to make the trip. I want a real Kurdish woman who knows her role and accepts it. He blames the long hours his first wife worked as a lawyer for their break-up. The process of finding a wife in Kurdistan is as traditional as the role the woman is expected to play after marriage. The first thing that Jamil did was to tell his elderly parents that he was looking for a bride.
Meet Kurdish Women
Please refresh the page and retry. With just days to go, Helen Mohamad Othman is finalising preparations for her annual Christmas donation. This year, Helen has been working overtime. Families were taken by surprise when months of relative calm gave way to a surge in violence and what has widely been called 'ethnic cleansing'. Amid bombs and shelling, residents from some of the cities on the Syria-Turkey border took flight, fearing for their lives. She bought, packed and delivered the much-needed staples of Syrian cooking — including jam, molasses, cans of chicken, tahini and sesame oil.
This second edition of Marriage Customs of the World examines historical context, social significance, and current trends and controversies of matrimony in the Western world as well as other cultures. Apart from detailing the ceremonies from specific countries, the book identifies specific elements of the wedding event and discusses them in a comparative manner, showcasing the similarities across cultures. The new content in this work includes additional information on courtship and how future spouses are found in other cultures; marriage in art, cinema, theater, and poetry; wedding bands; forced marriages and shotgun weddings; New Year's weddings; legislation regarding marriage; and engagement practices. Entries carried over from the first edition have been revised and updated as well.
In Kurdistan and Beyond, Honor Killings Remind Women They Are Worthless
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After graduating college in , I wanted to teach in the Middle East. Somehow, through various connections in the region, I found myself working in a private elementary school in Iraqi Kurdistan. I arrived ignorant, but ready to learn. While I was there, I discovered a world that was entirely new to me, and I explored various facets of the society I was living in.
Meet Kurdish Singles