Kurdish Activists’ Observations of Women’s Rights in Iraqi Kurdistan between March 2012 and March 2013 and their hopes for the future

The month of March in Iraqi Kurdistan brings many events: the anniversary of the Halabja gas attacks, the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Barzani, Nawroz, the Kurdish new year, and the little-mentioned International Women’s Day on March the 8th.

Last year for 8 March, members of CPT Iraqi Kurdistan joined local women’s rights ac- tivists outside the law courts of Sulaimani. They demonstrated to highlight the inade- quacy of the government and the courts in implementing the new law protecting women from domestic violence. There were not more than 30 people, with an entourage of 15 Asaish guards in full riot gear, presumably there to protect the female activists despite standing a hundred yards away between the demonstrators and the court building.

This year, things have changed. On March 8 organizers held a procession of 100-plus people, comprised of activists and regular citizens, the majority of whom were women. This included a heavy presence of female Asaish, something CPT had not seen before in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the evening, activists convened at the Culture Cafe to share music, poetry, and ideas. The local community of Sulaimani felt more optimistic about the possibilities for change with regards to women’s rights in the years to come.

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan spoke with a handful of activists working for greater women’s rights in the region. We asked about the conditions for women today, what has improved in Iraqi Kurdish society, what can still improve, and what they hope the future holds.

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