Establishment Anniversary of the Kurdish Women Union Date in the current year: December 11, 2024

Establishment Anniversary of the Kurdish Women Union The Establishment Anniversary of the Kurdish Women Union is an annual observance celebrated on December 11 in Iraqi Kurdistan (an autonomous region in northern Iraq mostly populated by Kurds). It celebrates a women’s rights organization that was founded in 1952 within the Kurdish Democratic Party.

Kurdistan is a geo-cultural historical region in Asia where the Kurdish people form a majority population. It encompasses southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, and northern Syria. Iraqi Kurdistan has a status of an autonomous region governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The role of Kurdish women in society largely depends on the country they live in. The majority of the Kurdish population in Iraq live in rural areas and are poorly educated. They are organized in traditional patriarchal clans where women are treated in many ways like property, unable to make their own decisions. Kurdish women’s rights organization report serious issues related to women, such as polygamy, domestic violence, genital mutilation, honor killings, and female infanticide.

The Kurdish Women Union was established in 1952 to combat discrimination and violence against women. Following the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy and the establishment of the Iraqi Republic in 1958, Kurdish women lobbied for legal reform and actually succeeded. The new government brought marriage under civil control and made honor killings illegal.

Soon after the revolution, Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim even appointed Zakiyya Hakki a judge. She was the first female judge in the Middle East and later became the only woman in the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party. Another renowned Kurdish woman was Leyla Qasim. She was an activist against the Ba’ath regime who was accused of tying to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Leyla Qasim was tortured and executed in 1974. Kurds regard her as a national martyr.

After the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in 1992, Kurdish women gained an opportunity to participate in the political life of the region. For example, Nesreen Barwari served as Minister of Reconstruction and Development in the KRG for four years. In 2003, she was appointed Minister of Public Works in the Iraqi Governing Council, one of the few Kurds and the only female minister in the cabinet.

However, women’s rights activists in Iraqi Kurdistan stress that the number of female politicians is very small, and that their initiatives are actively opposed by conservative male politicians. Laws against polygamy and honor killings don’t work as they are supposed to, and Kurdish women generally don’t have access to quality education and jobs that can help them become financially independent.

The Kurdish Women Union aims to protect the rights of Kurdish women within Iraqi Kurdistan and beyond. It fights discrimination and oppression against Kurdish women. The main goals of the Union are to eradicate domestic violence and honor killings, end gender discrimination in the patriarchal Kurdish society, and empower and educate women about their rights. The Union offers educational opportunities, job training, access to basic healthcare services.

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Establishment Anniversary of the Kurdish Women Union, observances in Iraqi Kurdistan, women's rights in Iraqi Kurdistan