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  • International Conference on Kurdish Women for Peace and Equality, March 8, 2007, Erbil, Southern Kurdistan
  • Sharon Linzey

The first International Conference on Kurdish Women was held on March 8, 2007, in Yaki Shubat Hall of the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil, Southern Kurdistan. Issues relating to Kurdish women around the globe were addressed by numerous speakers from Europe, the United States, and Kurdistan. This historic gathering of approximately 450 people was hosted by Dr. Saman Shali, President of the Kurdish National Congress of America, and chaired by Soraya Fallah, a well respected Kurdish human rights activist. The conference was sponsored by the President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani. In attendance were Speaker of the Parliament Adnan Mufti, Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi, Minister of State for Women's Affairs Dr. Jinan Qasim, members of the Kurdish Parliament, government officials, presidents and secretaries of the various Kurdish parties from Eastern and Western Kurdistan, NGOs, intellectuals, and personalities from all over the world.

Conference participants discussed a variety of subjects relating to the numerous obstacles to advancement faced by Kurdish women. All participants recognized that the advancement of Kurdish women is crucial to the democratic development of all Kurdish people in the regions of Kurdistan. The value of increased opportunities for women, the need for networking among NGOs and governments, and increased education are key to creating social change and the advancement of the rights of all Kurds in the territories of Kurdistan.

The conference was dedicated to the memory of the beloved Soraya Serajeddini, past vice president of the Kurdish National Congress of America. Due to the serious nature and subject matter of the conference, it was especially pleasing to see the number of men in attendance and engaged in discussion of women's rights issues.

Presentations covered numerous areas of scholarly inquiry, including the following: encouragement to identify women's gifts and use them responsibly to make a difference in the marketplace (Charmaine [End Page 103] Jamieson); the need for increased educational opportunities and networking for equality (Sharon Linzey and Kathryn Dovel); the right of women to write about sensuality in poetry as men do (Simin Chaichi); the problem of women being secondary to men in religious communities (Hemno Naqshbandi); the devastation of women's personalities during the Anfal campaign (Wezera Jalal); the lack of women in politics and the need for sustainable economic development (Venus Shamal); the need to document and gather information to remember and memorialize the destruction of men and women during persecution and war (Kurdistan Daloy); the horrors of honor killings in Kurdistan as a result of war (Jula Haji); the prevalence of honor killings abroad in countries such as Sweden (Seyran Duran); and the need to stand against abuse, female genital mutilation, and torture, and to move forward by establishing shelters, educational institutions, and recreational facilities (Juliana Ditty). The Kurdish National Congress plans to publish the papers presented at the conference.

Some important resolutions resulted from the conference, including: 1) the establishment of an international steering committee for future women's activities; 2) a resolution to urge the Kurdish Regional Government to build a housing complex for women suffering from the effects of the Anfal campaign, where medical treatment and counseling would be made available; 3) the resolve to prevent honor killings as well as physical and verbal abuse, forced prostitution, and female genital mutilation; 4) the enforcement of women's rights to divorce and protection from polygyny; 5) the establishment of community cultural centers and shelters throughout Kurdistan; 6) the resolve to increase the participation of women in the Kurdistan Regional Government and other legislative branches; and 7) the resolve to increase and strengthen the networking capabilities of Kurdish women with NGOs throughout the world.

Besides the excellent papers and presentations which attendees enjoyed, there was a display of the provocative and insightful art works of Hayv Kahraman. Made with Sumi ink and acrylic on paper, these works portrayed the various plights and desperate state of Kurdish women. Included in the exhibition were works depicting the negative treatment of women: honor killings, persecution, economic restrictions, war, and self-immolation. On the positive side were works relating to hope, freedom, [End Page 104] traditional...


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