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Kurdistan; Another Woman Killed by Father, Why not Politicizing it?

While the West admires the role of the Kurdish female fighters in Rojava( Syrian Kurdistan), the women in Iraqi Kurdistan continue to suffer from many tribal, religious, and legal barriers. They continue to face atrocities and killings, mostly by family members. Yet, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) failed to bring many perpetrators to justice. The Kurdistan’s political system is itself a masculine dominated one and does not embrace women rights, except for a superficial purpose. Below is another tragic story of a woman killed by her father, one day after Sarwin’s ambiguous death in Barzan area.

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By Shnyar A. Hassan

Kirkuk- On December 16, 2016, Zhala, a 28 years old, was killed by her father. The husband registered a claim against his father-in-law. Police investigations revealed that the dad used AK-47 and the reason was that Zhala was married to a man without her father’s permission. The father is in custody, and he pleaded guilty.

After Sarwin’s death, the girl from Barzan area who allegedly committed self-mutilation, Zhala’s case is the second tragic story, but this one happened in Kirkuk. On December 23, another girl from Kirkuk reportedly committed suicide, but the reasons are “unknown.” The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) media outlets quoted a KDP Asayish official in Kirkuk about Zhala’s case while the case is under police portfolio. These tragic stories of women committed suicide and killed by father occurred a week ago, or even earlier, but surprisingly some media outlets are shedding light on them now which is interesting.

There are some interpretations for publicizing these stories now by media outlets affiliated with the KDP. First, the KDP wants to turn the public attention away from Sarwin’s case. Second, the KDP media outlets want to make an argument that “yes, Sarwin’s case happened in the heart of the KDP area, Barzan, but these cases occurred in Kirkuk, which is considered a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) stronghold, but nobody talked about them. Or they were not politicized like Sarwin’s.” Therefore, every issue related to women gets getting media attention. There are many more reports about women affairs on KDP media outlets than ever before.

This argument is somehow true, but there is a big difference. Sarwin’s case was politicized once KDP media outlets tried to mislead the public. These KDP affiliate TV channels kept silent about Sarwin’s case until it became a politicized one and under the pressure of social media, they started to report about it. But in their reports, they showed the father as a victim while he was the one who refused Sarwin’s marriage proposal. According to a report, Sarwin told her cousin that she did it to “scare her father.” It is crystal clear that Sarwin’s father was behind her decision that led to her death, but her father is free. Furthermore, only the KDP channels were allowed to visit Barzan and interview Sarwin’s family. Lastly, Zhala’s father is in custody, and he pleaded guilty. This is what we want to happen in Sarwin’s case without considering Sarwin’s dad’s surname.

Here is a background about Zhala’s case based on the available reports.

The story of Zhala and her confrontation with her dad dates back to the time when Zhala got into a relationship with a man who was married.

Zhala’s father is from Kirkuk, and her mother is from Iranian Kurdistan. Her father met Zhala’s mom in Iran, and he got married to her. Zhala was educated and earned BA in the pharmaceutical, and later she became a pharmacist.

According to available reports, Zhala was married twice, but she got divorced from her first one. Later, she met her second husband who was married. The second husband was a physician assistant in the same hospital where Zhala worked. The man asked for her hand multiple times, but her dad refused. Zhala’s dad did not want her to get married to a man who has another wife, but Zhala kept her relationship with the man and later got married to him without her father’s approval.

As a divorced woman, in a conservative society, Zhala’s option for marriage could be very limited. In Kurdish culture, divorced women are under immense pressure as they find it economically and socially difficult to survive. Of course, multiple wives must not be a choice for women, but the laws, religion, and the tribal norms tolerate and some promote polygamy. So, to escape from social pressure, Zhala accepted the man’s proposal to marriage, but her dad never endorsed the marriage and cut his relationship with Zhala.

 

On December 16, Zhala visited her parent’s house in Kirkuk. It is not clear what exactly happened there, but the father allegedly killed her and pleaded guilty in front of police. He said that he was angry at her due to her marriage, and he tried to show his anger by shooting “randomly” but she was killed “coincidentally.”

*Shnyar is a social worker and expert on women affairs in Kurdistan. Shnyar has masters in sociology and has several years experience working with the women affairs organizations.

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