Kurdish artist and humanitarian Dashni Morad sings at the launch of the National Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women in the Kurdistan Region in Erbil on November 25, 2018. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Region began a 16-day campaign aimed at raising awareness about violence against women on Sunday.
Foreign representatives, non-govermental organizations, local government officials, and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq Jan Kubis all spoke at the launch in Erbil.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) PM Nechirvan Barzani
said in closing remarks that the parliament has worked to pass important laws
to combat violence against women.
"I would like to congratulate the women of Kurdistan
who very courageously stand against violence on a daily basis," he said.
Barzani urged activists not to turn a blind eye to gender
based violence in the Kurdistan Region.
The KRG interior ministry has a 119 hotline that works in coordination
with the UNFPA. Barzani noted gender-based violence (GBV) is a global
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Photo: Rudaw TV
"The question of women or violence against women is a
cultural matter hundreds of years old. The parliament and government cannot
alone carry this job. There must be pressure from women, too. We are showing
full leniency towards women in order for gender equality be achieved," Barzani
The KRG does not discriminate in violence committed
against women and men, said Barzani, who acknowledged historically women
have been persecuted in Kurdistan.
"We urge the media to show the disgusting acts against
women to the public," he added.
He also congratulated 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia
Murad for sharing her story of survival as an ISIS captive with the world.
Barzani thanked outgoing Kubis for being
present at the event.
The National Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women in the Kurdistan Region coincides with the with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.
The head of the EU Liaison Office in Erbil Clarisse Pasztory. Photo: Rudaw TV
Head of the EU Liaison Office in Erbil Clarisse Pasztory underscored the solemnness of the day.
"I'm speaking to you today on behalf of the European Union, as a diplomat, but also as a woman," she said. "In all of these three functions, I regret having to say that today is not a day to be celebrated
More attention and research needs to be given to the issue.
"The last year was not a good year for women and violence — not here in Kurdistan, not in the wider Iraq, not in the Middle East, nor globally," she said, "not even in my own country of Austria — for reasons that merit greater analysis for sure more women have been murdered, mostly by their own family members or husbands, have been sexually assaulted, have taken their own lives than the year before.
"And last year was already worse than the year before that."
Pasztory acknowledged that may be due in part to better reporting.
"In fact violence against men has increased too," she said while explaining that sexual violence towards men is no lesser a crime or degradation than against women.
Pasztory expressed that cycles of sexual and other violence in the country are likely contributing factors to conflict.
She praised the KRG for positive taking steps, but said they are not enough.
"But like many others, their record looks better on paper than behind closed doors," said Pasztory.
She acknowledged efforts by the Ministry of Interior and parliament to combat violence; however, "Sadly none of this is enough."
"And we jointly, and I mean jointly, must do more," implored Pasztory.
US Consul General to Erbil Steve Fagin echoed the statement of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that no country is immune to sexual violence.
"Unfortunately, no society is immune to gender-based violence. Domestic abuse, honor killings, sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence make victims of our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends everyday all over the world," he said.
Fagin said the solution can be addressed in several ways: eliminating harmful traditional practices like early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation; current attitudes which devalue women need to be addressed; and in the future assure women have a voice in society and government.
"Having more women in leadership roles puts them in position to lead the fight to eliminate violence against women," said Fagin.
Kurdish artist and humanitarian Dashni Morad explained that feminism should not be seen as an affront to men.
"We do not want payback," she said.
Morad detailed how she herself has been a victim: "This issue is very close to my heart."
Despite the shortcomings, Morad said, she has been able to fight for her nation, the Kurdish cause, and the rights of women and children.
Jan Kubis, UN secretary-general special representative to Iraq. Photo: Rudaw TV
Kubis said an increase in media reporting is not the only source for the increase in GBV case counts.
"While public awareness of harassment of violence against women and girls has in the past period increased through media attention, social media activism, public health campaigns, and social research, violence against women and girls has not abetted," he said.
"This is often because of women breaking their silence..." Kubis added. "There are still an alarming number of women and girls who continue to face this horrific violation of their rights."
Domestic violence in IDP and refugee camps must not to be ignored, he said.
Katsumi Moriyasu, the Japanese Consul General to the Kurdistan Region, also participated in the event, speaking in fluent Kurdish.
“We believe that ending violence against women isn’t instantaneous,” said Moriyasu.
Progress can be achieved “through the protection of their rights, through developing their capabilities to fight against all forms of violence and deception,” he said.
“Besides providing humanitarian aid, the Japanese government has provided financial backing worth $8.5 million to UN women for their activities in Iraq and third world countries since 2016,” added the consul general.
In a statement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: "Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic."
He added that it is a "deeply political issue."
"Violence can take many forms — from domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide," noting the far-reaching consequences to families and society.
The day is jointly supported by the heads of UNDP, UNICEF, UN WOMEN, and UNFP which are advocating for a #HearMeToo slogan to build upon the #MeToo hashtag that encouraged survivors of violence to share their stories.
This is a developing story... Update: 6:09 pm