New Monitoring Body Established to Protect Women’s Rights

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – This week, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Council of Ministries established a Women’s Rights Monitoring Board.

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani led the board’s first meeting. Types of violence committed against women were addressed during the meeting, specifically honor killing. Discussions focused on possible approaches to tackling the issue in Kurdistan.

The meeting was attended by Pakhashan Zangana, head of Kurdistan Women’s Council and Dr Nazand Begikhani, Senior Research Fellow on Gender and Violence at the University of Bristol, who is advising the government on gender issues.

Several government ministers, the head of the public prosecution office and representatives from women’s organizations were also in attendance.

The meeting identified shortcomings in the judicial and education systems and police departments, and urged improvements to overcome the problems. The implementation of a domestic violence law was another topic of the meeting.

The aim of the monitoring body is to improve the government’s policies towards women’s issues and provide a safe and happy environment for women within their families. The KRG prime minister will lead the monitoring body meeting once a month.

In a press conference after the inaugural session, the prime minister insisted that his administration is determined to tackle violence against women, especially honor killing. “In Kurdistan, no religion or tradition tolerate such acts,” he said.

Barzani said that KRG has long been working to overcome violence against women by establishing shelters and offices in every province of Kurdistan.

He admitted that nowadays violent cases appear to be increasing because in the past there was no data and people were not vocal about these types of issues. Barzani emphasized the importance of bringing the issue to the public’s attention, adding that no one is immune from the law, regardless of their social or government positions.

According to the prime minister, his administration is also working with parliament to draft a law preventing carrying weapons without permission. Furthermore, the KRG has signed contracts with some telephone companies to help reduce violence against women relating to cell phones.

He mentioned an incident in the Garmiyan area where a brother recently killed his sister. “There will be a serious investigation. Today I personally heard details of the incident. The government will send a committee to thoroughly investigate the situation and report the results to the public,” he said.

In the incident, the woman had just left a shelter and was killed at home. “We must make sure that women will enter a safe environment and not be physically hurt before sending them home,” Barzani said, pointing to the board as a way of coordinating support efforts available for women.

The prime minister said that the most important part of implementing a law is educating people about it. “The previous administration worked hard toward this goal; however, this cannot be done overnight … it must become part of society starting from the education system and schools,” he said.

Barzani also cited the media as important in this regard, saying that they sometimes interpret events when reporting to the public. “Someone killed his sister and burned her later in Sulaimani,” he said as an example. “The man who committed the crime regretted it. Unfortunately, the media exaggerated the report and tried to stir the public’s opinion.”

Barzani said that violence against women is not only occurring in Kurdistan, but is a worldwide problem. However, the focus has to be on what can be done here. “Women are the main component of Kurdish society. They have fought alongside men in past revolutions. Women were the main victims in the Anfal campaign,” he said.

The prime minister added, “It is unjust to accuse them alone of causing family problems and killing them. That’s why educating people should be the priority of government and civil organizations.”

Barzani maintained that the domestic violence law is an important piece of legislation. “During the meeting, I urged the minister of justice to implement the law thoroughly and assured him he has our support.”

Many social issues in Kurdistan end up being resolved through family settlements, but the prime minister urged people to rely on the court. “Honor killing is a crime and we will not allow it. The courts in Kurdistan will punish anyone who commits this crime,” he said.

“We do not deny our shortcomings, however the KRG is determined to eradicate this issue. We ask civil organizations and religious leaders to cooperate with us in this plan,” Barzani added.

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