Rania and Qala Diza: a true hell for women and girls
By Shyamalie Satkunanandan
ERBIL, March 30 (AKnews) - Raniya and Qala Diza are "a true hell for women and girls", after 18 cases of murder, self-immolation and domestic violence have been reported in just two months, and little action has been taken.
The latest report from a human rights group says the region, northwest of Sulaimaniyah, is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places for women in the Middle East and effective and wide-ranging strategies, including calling a state of emergency, are urgently needed.
Sakar HamadaminFive cases of murder or attempted murder, eight cases of self-immolation and five cases of domestic violence reported in January and February of this year - including the murders of Sakar Hamadamin (pictured, right) and Kaban Kamal Omer.
From 44 such cases reported by the KRG Directorate of Violence Against Women in 2011 - three murders, 29 self-burnings and 12 domestic violence cases - the report estimates that violence against women will triple this year.
'Ranya and Qaladiza, Iraq: A True Hell for Women and Girls' - a report based on an investigation by Wadi, a German NGO with headquarters in Sulaimaniyah - described the action taken by the government, women's groups and other organizations to stamp out violence against women so far as "window dressing".
Wadi called for the police, security forces and the judiciary, who have been so far neglectful of such cases, to be on high alert and develop a serious and comprehensive plan to prevent and prosecute offenders, in accordance with the 2011 Law Against Domestic Violence.
What little has been done to raise awareness and motivation among communities to stop the violence must also be addressed with strategies such as door-to-door educational visits and demonstrations.
Falah MoradkhinTo date, the report states, a womens' shelter has not been built in the area and Falah Moradkhin, Wadi's Iraq project coordinator, told AKnews that current action is misplaced.
"I say lets stop meetings, workshops, and conferences in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah for one month and concentrate on opening a shelter in Rania," he said.
"Because this will save lives but our workshops and seminars have not changed the predicament of women so far, and honor killings continue."
After Kurdistan Region's Prime Minister Salih Barham visited Rania earlier this month he reportedly accepted and approved a petition to open a shelter in the region.
However there are doubts as to whether Barham's promise will materialize and whether Prime Minister-elect Nechirvan Barzani will follow through.
The KRG Directorate of Violence Against Women confirmed Barham had verbally agreed to pay the costs of hiring a building for a shelter. But the department has no information on any plans beyond this.
Falah Moradkhin"Its just a promise, it's not even ink on paper. But there is a real need in the area and a shelter can save many lives so it is important that the Prime Minister implement this promise," said Moradkhin, who has organized and participated in many demonstrations for such action.
"It is the right of women in Rania to have a suitable shelter in accordance with the new law against domestic violence.
"We were involved in opening the first womens' shelter in Kurdistan in 1999 and we believe that shelters are big help in decreasing the number of honor killings and other acts of violence."
The report demands that legal proceedings should not be influenced by tribal customs and laws, which continue to dominate the way women are treated in Rania and Qala Diza.
Consequently the psychological, emotional and physical health of of women continues to be violated on a daily basis.
In particular, tribal customs of forced and exchange marriages continue, where 3,736 cases were recorded by the KRG Ministry of Human Rights between 2008-9, as does female genital mutilation, which was as high as 94% in 2009, according to Wadi's estimates.
Gula Ahmed, a Wadi team supervisor in Rania since 2007, said: "Our women have been experiencing these conditions for ages and they have brought many catastrophes with them.
"As a result of psychological, physical and economical violence, they are forced to commit suicides by burning," she said, referring to the high incidences of self-immolation reported.
Moradkhin believes that effective action is Rania is just the first of many steps: "If we succeed there, this can be the first step in combating violence in Kurdistan.
"For that to happen officials need to leave their chairs in Erbil and focus on Ranya and Qala Diza."
By Shyamalie Satkunanandan
*An earlier version of this report was published in the newspaper and website of Awene.