photo: Eddy van Wessel
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Speak out for women
Where were you, my Kurdish friends, after six guys gang raped a 16 year old Syrian girl in Erbil? I had expected you all to be on the streets, to protest against this hideous crime. Against the fact that a girl can be pulled out of a car and abused by six Kurdish young men. That this happens in Kurdistan.
The only ones who demonstrated against it, were Syrian refugees. But this happens in your society, and even though the victim is foreign, the perpetrators are locals.
Kurdistan is safer than Amsterdam, I often say to people asking me about the violence that is holding Iraq in its grip. Yet on this one score that is not true: Women are far safer and better off in Amsterdam.
In Kurdistan, women get killed if they abuse the honor of the family. By doing something, or just by being talked about. When honor killing happens, family members behind it show to be proud of their crime – as happened recently. They can, because the society does not speak out against it.
Silence like this is disastrous. Because it gives off the wrong message. It makes people think that it is okay.
This goes for another crime that hits women: sexual harassment. It is growing, I found to my surprise, in the conservative Kurdish society. Because of that same society, women hardly dare to talk about the way men stare at them, comment on them, follow them and even grab their female parts. Because they fear to be seen not as a victim, but as a slut who asked for it, if they report this abuse.
The silence tells the perpetrators it is okay, and they are not punished. They can continue. It gives them a sense of power, of being allowed to abuse women.
I am sure that this attitude indirectly has led to rape, as men felt they had the right to do whatever they want to women. They only need to make sure to get away with it. It might be the background of the gang rape too.
After rape, again silence follows. Many rapes are hidden from the statistics because they are hushed and solved inside the families, by forcing perpetrator and victim to marry. Apart from the question what kind of a relationship that can be, again it sends the wrong message. Rape is okay, you get to marry the women, whether she likes it or not.
What it all boils down to is that the well being of a woman is not so important in Kurdistan. She does not have to be happy, men can abuse and rape her. In the case of the gang rape the fact that she is not deflowered has quietened possible protest. Still a virgin, so it is not so bad.
Silence about these issues are killing women, and are killing the Kurdish reputation. Kurdistan, look after your women. Don’t lock them up to protect them: tell men to stop abusing them. Speak out, please!
This blog was first published in Kurdish in the daily Kurdistani Nwe