Awezan Nuri, a human rights activist in Kirkuk and member of Pana Women's Shelter. Photo: Rudaw •
KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region,— Security officials and women’s rights activists in Kirkuk say that violence against women has increased dramatically in the past two years.
A victim of domestic violence who wants to be identified by her initials as T.A says inside the home has become as violent for women as the street.
“In order to live you have to be silent,” she says. “I don’t want to see the home where I grew up ever again.”
For the past two years T.A. has lived in a women’s shelter in the Kurdistan Region.
Awezan Nuri, a human rights activist in Kirkuk says, “Women in Kirkuk are doubly victimized. Neither the government nor the security forces pay any attention to them and there is no one to save them from the barrel of the gun.”
Nuri, an activist at Pana Women’s Shelter says that women in the Kurdish parts of the city face more domestic violence thanks to “a traditional culture of patriarchy.”
“Unfortunately we see that violence against women increases day after day,” she says.
In the last week of September alone, 6 women were killed in Kirkuk, and Nuri believes a recent decision by the Iraqi Prime Minister to allow guns in every household “for protection” is a major reason for this spike in violence against women.
“In this city guns are bought and sold like any other item and it is women who pay the price,” she says.
Nuri says that she will never forget a heart-wrenching case of domestic violence where 3 women were killed by their own father.
“Three years ago he set the women on fire and shot them later on,” she says. “Two of them died instantly, but one of them didn’t die despite three bullets in her body. For a number of years we kept her in a shelter in Sulêmani. She underwent reconstruction surgery and we later found her a job. She never wanted to see her father again.”
Pana Shelter has obtained police reports for the past 18 months on violence against women, which indicate that 46 women have been killed and 19 women killed themselves.
Women’s rights activists believe the figures are higher, but they are often not reported to the police, covered up locally or that the cases are solved traditionally through blood money.
There are no women’s shelters in Kirkuk. Nuri and her colleagues have to send victims of domestic violence to shelters in Erbil (Hewlêr) and Sulêmani (Sulaimaniyah) city. But according to Nuri,www.ekurd.net this does not provide a solution to the rising number of women in need of shelter.
“Unfortunately, the Kurdistan Region does not just accept anyone or non-Kurdish women,” she says.
Speaking to Rudaw, Nuri said that divorce and separation among families is on the rise in Kirkuk. According to her, in the first half of this year more than 2000 divorce cases have been filed in the courts and more than 750 of them have been finalized.
Almas Fazil, an official in Kirkuk’s provincial council says some women are victims of sex trade bands who force women into prostitution.
“The prostitution bands take advantage of the security vacuum in Kirkuk,” she says. “Also the law to combat prostitution is out-of-date and very bad. It arrests the women and releases the men.”
Lawaz Zangana, head of the Kirkuk branch of the Women’s Union says abduction of women is another serious problem.
“Abduction of women has increased, but some of them are abducted for ransom and not for sex trade,” Zangana says.
Security officials in Kirkuk agree that violence against women has increased, but brigadier Anwar Ahmed says, “You cannot put a policeman in front of every house.”
By Nawzad Mahmoud - Rudaw