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Prime Minister Barzani's speech at launch of campaign to combat violence against women

TUE, 27 NOV 2012 16:47 | KRG Cabinet

Ladies and gentlemen, dear delegates

Good morning

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.

Dear guests,

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, Sulemani, 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, 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.

See also the press release about the launch of the campaign to combat violence against women.