Kurdistan Regional Government KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani joined the High Committee of the Campaign Combatting Violence Against Women to open a conference on promoting women's rights and combatting domestic violence in Erbil yesterday.
A large number of visitors from the diplomatic community attended yesterday's conference, including the Ambassador of Sweden to Iraq, Mr Jörgen Lindström and the Deputy UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG), Mr Gyorgy Busztin. The conference officially began a 16-day campaign throughout the Kurdistan Region aimed to reduce violence against women and improve women's rights.
In his speech at the conference, Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the support of the KRG for women's issues and outlined many related initiatives that are being implemented in the Region. “Today, with the launch of this national campaign for the elimination of violence against women, we combine our efforts with like-minded leaders and people throughout the world, who are addressing this serious issue,” he said.
Describing the government's overall support, the secretary general of High Council of Women Affairs, Ms Pakhshan Zangana, said: “This year, the KRG's five-year national strategy for combatting violence against women has been adopted by the Council of Ministers, and this is a great step towards a real partnership between the government and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the process of addressing this issue.”
Ms Zangana went on to give some details of the 16-day campaign, saying: “Awareness sessions will be held in the towns and villages of Kurdistan by the
line ministries, CSOs and media agencies in partnership with UNFPA and UN Women,” adding that some of the CSOs of the disputed territories have joined in the campaign.
DSRSG Busztin, commended the progress the Region has made but outlined the long road that still lies ahead. “You have shown your commitment to ending violence against women, such violence is a threat to the very fabric of society…but ending violence is more than the work of 16 days, and the UN remains committed to helping the KRG in their fight.”
The conference today, entitled “From peace in the home to peace in the society”, is part of a five year plan by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to combat violence against women. The five-year anti-violence strategy was officially instituted by the KRG in September of this year.
A representative of the Women's Rights Protection Committee of the Kurdistan Parliament also spoke at today's conference, as did the Swedish Ambassador to Iraq and both the Consul Generals of the United States and the United Kingdom. The event was attended by a large number of KRG Ministers,www.ekurd.net Members of Parliament and local officials, as well as representatives of the local diplomatic and civil society communities.
The KRG and the Kurdistan Parliament have already undertaken a number of initiatives to protect women's rights and eliminate violence. After 2001, Prime Minister Barzani led the way to amend laws to provide more rights for women, to put obstacles in the way of polygamy and to define honour killings as premeditated crimes. The KRG has created a number of shelters for women under threat, and the Interior Ministry has special directorates in each governorate to deal with cases.
The previous KRG cabinet set up a High Council of Women's Affairs which, with the help of UN agencies and international experts, has defined the new five-year national strategy. A Women's Rights' Monitoring Board at the Council of Ministers was also established, to assist the High Council to better coordinate and follow up. The monitoring board meets monthly and brings together all concerned ministries.
Kurdistan Prime Minister Barzani's speech at launch of campaign to combat violence against women
Ladies and gentlemen, dear delegates
I would like to welcome you all to this conference on the occasion of the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”. I am pleased to be with you to tackle this important matter.
Today, with the launch of this national campaign for the elimination of violence against women, we combine our efforts with like-minded leaders and people throughout the world, who are addressing this serious issue.
Here, I would like to thank the Kurdistan Women's High Council for the organisation of this campaign. Also, I thank all the ministries, directorates, government and non-government organisations who have worked hard to combat violence against women and improve the situation of women in Kurdistan.
These activities which we launch on 25 November here in Kurdistan are to be celebrated. I hope that today's enthusiasm will continue throughout the entire national campaign to eliminate violence against women in the Kurdistan Region. This campaign is not a show for the media; it is rooted in the belief of the Kurdistan liberation movement and the Kurdistan Regional Government in women's rights. We know that violence against women is a serious threat to democracy. No system can call itself democratic unless it provides equality and justice.
I am sure that you agree with me that violence against women is a terrible expression of inequality and injustice. At the Kurdistan Regional Government, we are determined to protect women's rights and promote equality of opportunity.
The KRG has been part of this international campaign since 2007. Positive outcomes of our effort can be seen through the increasing awareness of this issue in our society.
Today, while we are paying tribute to the struggle of women across the world, we appreciate the women's liberation movement in Kurdistan, both now and in the past. During our liberation struggle and while most of us were Peshmergas (freedom fighters), the role of women was witnessed in political activities, as freedom fighters and as family leaders, especially during the displacement and exodus. Thousands of girls and boys in today's Kurdistan owe their upbringing to the perseverance and resistance of Kurdistan's mothers who were able to resist the Anfal campaigns. Kurdish men who themselves experienced such atrocities should be ashamed to oppress women and practice violence against them.
There is no honour in murder. It is with this conviction in mind that we condemn the practice of honour crimes.
In 2007, we established Directorates to Face Violence against Women at the Ministry of Interior and in Erbil, Sulêmani, Garmiyan and Duhok. Subsequently, these Directorates opened offices in sub districts and towns. According to statistics, the number of women who have been killed has fallen. However, the number of complaints about violence against women has risen. This indicates an increase in awareness among women and society.
Also, like any other progressive country, the KRG has established a number of shelters to protect girls and women under threat.
After 2001, we amended a number of articles in the Iraqi Personal Status Code and the Iraqi Penal Code, in order to provide more rights in law for women. With these amendments, we put obstacles in the way of polygamy and we defined honour killings as premeditated crimes. We call upon the Iraqi federal government to follow the example of the Kurdistan Region. Currently, there is the opportunity to evade the law of Kurdistan Region by fleeing to other parts of Iraq to exploit the more permissive laws which operate in Iraq but outside of our Region, such as the tolerance of polygamy and under-age marriage, as well as the killing of women.
The Kurdistan Regional Government, in common with 122 other countries, has passed a law combating domestic violence. This Law was passed by the Kurdistan Parliament last year. The Law was prepared by the KRG with the assistance of women's rights activists and experts. According to the opinion of many experts, this Law is one of the most progressive in the Middle East.
We thank Women NGOs and women's rights activists for their help in amending and drafting the required laws. Here I would like to invite them to further monitor the implementation of these articles and laws regarding women. These laws should be explained to people so that women are aware of their rights and of government protective services. We as government are bound to protect their rights and their safety.
Here I ask women to consider the Kurdistan Regional Government as your advocate and protector; rather than despair, rely on the authorities.
It is necessary to extend special thanks to religious scholars for playing an effective role in the amendment of the law. However at the same time, I urge them to participate in the national campaign to stop violence against women. Islam doesn't permit honour killings. In fact, suicide is forbidden in Islam. I reiterate my respect to Islamic Scholars, who indeed played an important role in the process of reforming the law, and urge them to continue in their positive efforts.
It is the duty of school teachers to raise awareness among children. It is also the duty of the universities and academic centers to conduct research on this area. I also ask the media to play a greater role in raising awareness among our community.
We, as the government, are aware of our duties and responsibilities. But, defending women's rights is a collective duty, the duty of government as well as that of the community.
Recently, in the current cabinet, we have thoroughly reviewed our policies and set up new strategies.
In the 6th Cabinet, the High Council of Women Affairs was established, which was a very significant step. The High Council with the help of UN agencies and international experts has set up a national strategy to face violence against women in Kurdistan. In September this year, this strategy was endorsed by the Council of Ministers for implementation.
To assist the High Council to better coordinate and follow up, we established the Women's Rights' Monitoring Board at the Council of Ministers. The Women's Rights Monitoring Board meets monthly and brings together all relevant ministries, including the ministries of Justice, Religious Affairs,www.ekurd.net Interior, Health, Education, Culture and Youth, Higher Education, Labour and Social Affairs as well as Planning. A proposed law has been drafted to reinforce the institutional and legal role of the High Council of Women.
The Combating Domestic Violence Law has not been implemented sufficiently. To this end, we have convened a number of meetings with relevant
authorities, including the Kurdistan Judiciary Council. This has assisted implementation of some of the Articles of the Law. We appreciate the cooperation of the UN in this process. Implementation of the Law has included the appointment of specialist judges as well as targeted training for law officers and investigators. We have also decided to establish ten specialist police stations in the Kurdistan Region to investigate domestic violence.
Here, I would like to ask all women in Kurdistan as well as Women's NGOs not to forget the displaced women of Syria, who have sought refuge in Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Regional Government has provided support to them and their families. It is a national and humanitarian duty to assist these refugee women.
I would also like to ask you not to limit the campaign to eliminate violence against women to these 16 days, but to extend it throughout the year and make it a daily task. All concerned government departments and organisations should thoroughly implement the law and policies related to the protection of women and their rights in Kurdistan.
We will not be safe unless all women in Kurdistan feel secure. Women should feel that government, police and courts are there to provide them with security, justice and protection. This is our ultimate goal.
I wish the women in Kurdistan a prosperous life. Once again I would like to welcome you to this conference.