Domestic violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, honor killing: the fortunes of the women of Kurdistan do not seem to be very different from those of their sisters in other patriarchal societies in this violence plagued part of the world. Erbil is the regional capital and there are wars and bloody conflicts going on to the north, south, east and west. For a foreign visitor, the tranquillity of the city suggests nothing more than women suppressed by tradition. Surprise! What you find are women who are actively involved in all aspects of society. From Kurdish Sunnis to Assyrian Christians, from Turkmen to Arabs, they are involved in public administration, business, professions, the university and front line politics.
They gain a presence and respect by following the example of the peshmergas (guerrillas) that fought and died with the Kurdish resistance against the regime of Saddam Hussein. They are very aware, of course, that they are the spearhead. They will be followed by the young women that have been educated in rural areas where ancient customs prevail. And they have a message for the women of the world: “We are like you. Let’s get to know each other”.