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Campaigners press for changes to stop the killing of women in Iraqi Kurdistan

PRESIDENT of the Slemani Court of Justice Jasem Jazaa Jaafer agreed to work with those campaigning to stop the killing of women in the Kurdistan region of Iraq following a demonstration today.

Protesters gathered outside the court building for a press conference this morning before presenting a list of key demands to the court.

The number of women murdered in so-called “honour killings” is showing a worrying rise, campaigners warned. 

Those gathered stood in silence, wearing scarves emblazoned with red hands, depicting the blood of the women that have been killed in the region.

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Slemani last week, spokeswoman for the Conscience Group Sakar Ebdullah said that more than 20,000 women have been killed since the 1991 uprising in the Kurdish region.

Violence against women is reaching “alarming levels” she said, adding: “The existing laws are not favourable to women.”

Today’s action was co-ordinated by the Stop Killing Women coalition, a broad-based campaign spearheaded by the Communist Party of Kurdistan – Iraq, but including local non-governmental organisations with the backing of the United Nations. The coalition is pressing for legislative changes. 

Campaign spokesman Mohammed Sheeraz Talibani outlined the main demands to the Morning Star. One of the key changes is to a rule that allows parents, husbands, uncles or brothers to sign papers forcing women’s shelters to release their daughters, wives or other female relatives into their care.

“After they are taken from the refuge, they kill them,” Mr Talibani explained.

“In Chamchamal there was a case where two sisters were killed by their father. He started a new relationship, but their stepmother didn’t like them and kicked them out of the house, saying they were ‘bad girls.’

“They ended up in a shelter, but their father signed the papers two months later and they were forced to leave. His new wife told him that they had behaved ‘dishonourably’ in the refuge. 

“He and two other men then shot the girls — and they have escaped punishment as the father has been sheltered by the community, moving from house to house. 

“The authorities won’t make arrests of the men as the father is a leading figure in the community — so they get away with murder,” he said. 

Mr Talabani said that the campaign’s work is dangerous: workers have received death threats for supporting the refuges and have been warned many times to stay away.

“There are many cases like this. And if you help them, they kill you,” he said.

The Stop Killing Women coalition has a project that aims to challenge the media narrative and is working with news organisations to ensure that they report on the killing of women responsibly.

“After a woman is killed, the media and television in Kurdistan spread propaganda making out that she deserved to die, blaming the victim for her death. 

“She cannot respond — but it also helps men to escape justice,” he said.

Mr Talabani said today’s meeting was a sign of progress but added that much more needed to be done to change the situation.

“Hopefully we will meet with the government to force parliament to listen to our demands and take action,” he said.

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