Kurdish women fight for equality in Syria

Like her five sisters before her, Ahin left school to help her mother at home. Now she’s training to fight.

Source: Reuters

At a remote Kurdish militia base on the grassy rolling hills near Syria’s border with Iraq, the stocky 19-year-old jumps and crawls with rows of women in olive green fatigues. Their commander barks an order, and they take position and aim their Kalashnikovs.

Kurdish female fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) hold their weapons at a military training camp in Malikiya, Hassaka province December 9, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Rodi Said

Kurdish female fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) hold their weapons at a military training camp in Malikiya, Hassaka province December 9, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Rodi Said

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Prominent women’s rights campaigner in solidarity visit to Rojava

Margaret Owen, a well-known human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate has returned from a solidarity visit with women’s groups in Rojava, northern Syria.

Source: Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Ms Owen spent eight days in the region, which is also known as Western Kurdistan and is currently under the administration of a broad coalition of civil society and political organisations led by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The region was largely peaceful until clashes with Al Qaeda affiliated groups began this year, and has seen a massive influx of Syrian internal refugees fleeing violence elsewhere in the country.

During her visit Ms Owen visited local initiatives, projects and programs led by women calling for peace, Kurdish self-determination and women’s rights. Among them were humanitarian groups, looking after nearly 200,000 internally displaced people (IPDs) without any international aid assistance.

Owen with Kurdish women in Rojava_Dec 2013

Ms Owen said: “The killing must stop. Humanitarian aid must go directly to Rojava. And all UN member states must stop providing arms to the regime, or the opposition, now so deeply infiltrated by Al Qaida militias.” Continue reading

One woman’s revolt against the wall of shame

The female mayor of Nusaybin, Ayse Gokkan, has started a death fast among the mines between the border of Turkey and Syria.

Source: Kurdistan National Congress (KNK)

BDP MP fasting protest November 2013Ayşe Gökkan says: “by building if this wall of shame Turkey is not upholding the Ottowa Agreement which it is a signatory of. The wall is being constructed to maintain the minefield. The building of this wall is a crime. Despite the fact that I am the local mayor, I was not informed of this construction. The decision to build this wall is a political decision. This wall is being constructed to further divide the people of Kurdistan. This wall is not being built for ‘security reasons’ or ‘to prevent trafficking’, it is being built to separate the Kurdish people”.

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Women of Kurdish Democratic Union party push through pro-women policies in Western Kurdistan

Under the slogan ‘’together to administer our areas autonomously’’ the permanent People’s Council in Western Kurdistan has held its second meeting.

The Council emphasized they will continue to further their democratic self-governance project. Report from the different Council Committees were read, including Justice, Health, Environmental, Statistics, Social Security and Religion Committee among many others. The permanent council of people’s council  listened to criticisms and discussed the different aspects of every committee’s work.

As demanded by the Women’s Committee the suspension of all Council members with a second wife was voted for. Members of the Women’s Committee said that decision was a means to secure women’s rights and to advance gender equality. The Committee also informed the Council of the opening of new women’s centers in a number of cities where training courses to empower women are being run.

Sexism in the System in Syria

Some laws that are prejudicial towards women were amended this year. But gender inequality remains entrenched in Syria’s criminal code. 

Source: Syria Today

A presidential decree issued at the beginning of 2011 made long-awaited changes to the country’s criminal law, which dates to 1949 and contains numerous provisions considered prejudicial towards women. But while the amendments are a step forward, local activists say they do not go far enough.

The amendments included stricter sentences for rape and honour killings. While some women’s rights advocates hailed the amendments, others argued that certain provisions – such as articles 548 and 508, which provide for lenient sentences for ‘honour killings’, and encourage rapists to marry their victims – should be dropped completely.

Critics also note that other prejudicial provisions in the criminal code remain unchanged. For example, article 489 permits marital rape and article 473 imposes longer sentences on women than on men who have sex outside of marriage. A woman who has sex outside of marriage can be sentenced to three months to two years in jail while a man who commits the same ‘crime’ can be imprisoned for between one month and one year.

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A dire situation for Kurdish women in Syria

A recent report submitted by the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) denounces the human rights violations endured by the Kurdish population in Syria. In this article we highlight those suffered by Kurdish women, who are discriminated both as a result of their ethnicity and of their gender.

Sources: KHRP, Refugees International and Roj Women’s Association

According to the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, Kurds make up between 15-20% of the 20 million Syrian population, making them the largest ethnic minority group in the country. The majority of Kurdish Syrians live in the North east of the country around the towns of Hasakey and Qamishli. Smaller pockets of Kurds also live in Syria’s two largest cities of Aleppo and Damascus.

Despite totaling such a high percentage of the population an estimated 300,000 Syrian Kurds are stateless. Being stateless means that individuals are denied Syrian citizenship, and classed as foreigners or aliens living in the country of their birth. Except in the province of Al-Hasakah, foreigners may not be employed at government agencies or ministries, or many other highly qualified positions within the country, including state-owned companies. To buy and register a SIM card in Syria you must present your identity documents; documentation which many Kurds lack, thus even owning a mobile phone is often not possible. Individuals registered as foreigners can neither vote in local or national elections, marry Syrian nationals (of which a minority of Kurds are classes), or legally own property or land in Syria.

How do these violations affect Syrian Kurdish women?

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Thousands of women demonstrated in Kurdish cities

“No to women massacre”

Source: ANF

A large number of women wearing traditional clothes gathered at Urfakapı to attend the final meeting in Diyarbakır organized under the slogan “No to women massacre”. While thousands coming from center Bağlar, Yenişehir, Kayapınar and Sur, Çınar, Lice, Ergani, Kulp, Hazro and Bismil Districts gathered at Urfakapı, Diyarbakir Municipality buses gave free service for 8 March Women’s Day.
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Campaign of arrests against Kurdish women in Syria

Activists Syrian Committee for Human Rights – MAD reports that supporters of the Democratic Union Party – PYD, and the organisation of Sittar Women in Damascus have been arrested during February 2011.

Source: ANF

The women arrested are: Farhan Muhammad Bashir, aged 17 from the Qamishli area was arrested on 24 February at 3am, Naima Hassan Latif , aged 30 from Qamishli area was arrested on 25 February, Halima Khalil Sharwish, aged 35 from Gera Soar Fakar village, was arrested on February 12, at 7pm Photos Continue reading