Surge in violence against women in Iraqi
SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region "Iraq",
— Medics in Iraqi Kurdistan said on Saturday that
they had seen a surge in violence against women in
May, with both so-called "honour" killings and
female suicides on the increase.
"At least 14 women died in the first 10 days of May
alone," a doctor told AFP in the region's second
largest city of Sulaimaniyah.
"Seven of them took their own lives, the other seven
were murdered in still unexplained circumstances" --
apparently the victims of "honour" killings.
"Over the same period, we recorded 11 attempted
self-immolations. These women were so desperate they
set fire to themselves," the doctor added, asking
not to be identified.
According to Kurdistan regional government figures,www.ekurd.net
in Sulaimaniyah province
alone more than 50 women attempted suicide by
burning in the first four months of the year and
another eight tried to hang themselves.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has
regularly highlighted "honour" killings of Kurdish
women as being among the country's most severe human
Most such crimes are reported as deaths caused by
accidental fires in the home.
Aso Kamal, a 42-year-old British Kurdish Iraqi
campaigner, says that between 1991 and 2007, 12,500
women were murdered for "honour" reasons or
committed suicide in the country's three Kurdish
The Kurdish autonomous region runs its own affairs
and has enjoyed relative peace and growing
prosperity since the US-led invasion of 2003, while
Arab areas of Iraq have been plunged into sectarian
But crimes against women continue despite campaigns
by human rights activists and repeated condemnation
by women members of the regional government and
Most of the attacks are carried out by close
relatives who believe the victims' behaviour to have
been immoral. Desperate to escape the cycle of
domestic violence, many women turn to suicide.
The Kurdish region's first centre dedicated to
tackling domestic violence against women opened in
Sulaimaniyah last October, and provides
psychological support and legal advice to victims in
"Even if the phenomenon is deeply embedded in the
historical roots of our region,www.ekurd.net
it has become alarmingly
commonplace in recent months," Layla Abdullah,
president of the separate Kurdish women's rights
group the Aram Shelter, said.
"In 2004, 48 female victims of domestic violence
found refuge at the association in order to escape
death," Abdullah said.
"The number rose to 71 in 2007, and now it stands at
25 for the first four months of this year," she
In 2002 the Kurdish government abolished a law which
reduced the penalties for those convicted of
"honour" crimes, but this has still not eradicated
the violence, according to those fighting to protect
Kurdish women's rights.
In November 2007, Kurdish human rights minister Aziz
Mohammed acknowledged that domestic violence
occurred in northern Iraq.
"Domestic violence, sexual abuse, death threats,
insults, forced marriages, kidnapping, being forced
to leave school... these are the problems which
confront the women of Kurdistan," a ministry report
said, adding that most victims were between 13 and
18 years old.
Paradoxically, Kurdish women are deeply involved in
the region's political process with 28 in the
111-seat parliament and three holding ministerial
"Suicide attempts by traumatised women are on the
increase," said Bakhshan Zangana, who heads the
parliamentary women's group.
"We must discuss and find a solution to this
situation. Suicide is clearly one of the
consequences of domestic violence and cruelty."
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