Kurdistan Regional Government
MON, 18 DEC 2017 09:53 Erbil, GMT +3

Prime Minister Barzani’s speech on the National Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women

MON, 27 NOV 2017 22:00 | KRG Cabinet

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning

I would like to welcome you all to this year’s “National Campaign to Combat Violence against Women” in the Kurdistan Region.

For the tenth year in a row, we in the Kurdistan Region, are presiding over the National Campaign to Combat Violence against Women as we continue to strengthen equality and social justice. Despite the recent events and despite the difficult situation the Kurdistan Region is facing; we managed, like previous years and in parallel with world governments, NGOs and civil society organizations, to renew our political will to establish peace and security in the Kurdistan Region, further invigorate our activities to eliminate violence within the society, families and on a national level and even beyond.

This year, I would like to reiterate the KRG’s political will and also the wish of the people of Kurdistan to further strengthen freedoms, equality, peace and stability.

There is no doubt that the Kurdistan Region going through difficult and tough times. The events of the past months proved that the people of Kurdistan are a peaceful, open, generous and protective of their achievements. Yet, they don’t like to use violence to resolve issues and obtain their basic political, civil and humanitarian rights; they would rather earn the rights they fought for through democratic and peaceful means.

Noticeably, whenever any country experiences political and economic turmoil, women pay a huge tax. They not only become the main victims of violence and war but end up witnessing their well-earned rights being violated, their activities slowing and the equality and justice process regressing.

Today, we reaffirm our stance that with the support of all the women of Kurdistan we will not allow your rights to regress and will not allow you to become main victims of wars and conflicts. We promise that the progress you achieved in the past 25 years will be protected and the KRG will continue to support you closely.

Over the past 25 years, we worked seriously on women rights and social policies in the Kurdistan Region, because we do believe that establishing and maintaining security, equality and justice will form the principal groundwork for our work and they are the best gateway towards a peaceful prosperous life and a free Kurdistan for all for all who lives in the Kurdistan Region. Based on this, and after consulting with experts and activists in the field of equality and human rights, we worked on amending some laws and policies and also to draft a strategy to serve this purpose.

In the legal field, since the 1990s, we managed to amend a number of articles in both Iraqi Penal and Personal Status Laws. Additionally, and after thorough consultations with women MPs representing all political parties, the Kurdistan Parliament issued a number of modern and contemporary laws in favor of women rights.

It is worth mentioning here to shed light on some of the reforms and amendments we made. As of 2001, killing a woman under whatever excuse, (the so-called honour killing), is dealt with as “murder”. It isn’t the case in the Iraqi laws. Under articles 277, 128, 130, 131 and 132 of the Iraqi Penal Code men who kill women under the pretext of protecting honour would only get light prison sentences.

Polygamy in the Kurdistan Region has been restricted after issuing a number of laws and restrictions. Marriage Age for females was raised to 18 so that girls have more opportunities to educate themselves and prosper in this Region.

The Kurdistan Region’s Law No. 8 (law to combat Domestic Violence) of 2011, was another step towards strengthening equality and social justice. Even before this law, the Kurdistan Parliament in 2008 issued Law No.8 to prevent abusing communication devices and means (Mobile Phones and Internet).  That Law was a contemporary law aimed at protecting women from being harassed and threatened by mobile phone devices and the internet. Unfortunately, some of those harassments created social problems that caused violence and sometimes even lead to the loss of lives.

When it comes to policy and strategy, our actions prove that we have proactively and systematically worked on improving the situation of women in our society.

Establishing the Directorate of Combatting Violence against women and a number of safe Shelters to embrace and protect the women who have been subjected to threats and violence, creating the High Council of Women Affairs and the Women’s Rights Monitoring Board have all been practical steps by the KRG to institutionalize women rights in the Kurdistan Region with the aim of eliminating violence against them and modernizing the society.

When checking our performances, I was glad to see that such organizations have been striving on daily basis to reach our goals. It seems that after the emergence of Da’esh and after the attacks of the Iraqi forces the full implementation of our plans have been impeded and our performances haven’t met our expectations.

In addition to the obstacles to the executive authority including the recent attacks on civilians in the Kurdistan Region and the crisis in Syria and Iraq, the issue of the refugees and internally displaced persons was another extraordinary humanitarian challenge that faced the Kurdistan Region.

Despite the hard situation the Kurdistan Region has been going through, the refugees and internally displaced people have been welcomed in the Kurdistan Region. In the past four years, around two million of them have found shelter in the Kurdistan Region. After the attack of the Iraqi forces on Kirkuk and other areas, another hundred sixty thousand more people have been displaced, during that time, several cases of abuse against women have been reported by NGOs. We will investigate those reports and we urge the progressive voices in Iraq and the International Community to support us in punishing those perpetrators and to compensate those women who are the victims of such abuses. Also, we encourage them to help and enable the refugees and displaces persons and ensure a safe return to their homes.

We know that the internal problems have had adverse effects; however, we promise that we will always preserve the security that Kurdistan has been enjoying and we will endeavour for unity and integrity.

We believe that in order to confront violence, we should set all out differences aside and work together with a strong will and conviction, because as I said it in the beginning that this matter is not just about women only, but it is about all the society and the peace and the security of the Kurdistan is as same as domestic peace and tranquillity of the families in Kurdistan. More importantly, when working on these delicate issues, we should set our personal opinions aside and implement the strategy of our government as it is.

This year’s campaign coincides with the international campaign by women against workplace sexual assault and harassments by work bosses and employers.  The case of Weinstein has encouraged women across the globe to break the silence and condemn and denounce misbehaviour against women.

It has since been a while, that the women in Kurdistan, have practically taken steps to confront all kinds of gender-related sexual harassments. Clearly, the recent universal campaign has emboldened our stance, and I urge the police forces and the judicial authority to become role models in eliminating these deplorable acts and I encourage them to hear out the voices of the victims in order to bring about justice.

In the same way, we show our sympathy and support for the progressive individuals and sides in the federal authority in Baghdad to block the law bill that aims to permit marriage of young girls at an age of as early as nine years. Girls, at such age, need the love of their mothers and fathers so they can further their education at school and not to become victims of early marriage and their lives to be ruined. I hope that the progressive sides in Iraq will succeed in blocking such a law and becoming an act in the Federal Iraqi System.
We work with a strong conviction on the matter concerning women and our political will is geared towards resolving the problems relating to women. I would like to reaffirm again that this issue is multifaceted and multidimensional, hence I urge everyone from all communities, NGOs, media outlets, revered religious preachers and international organizations to help succeed these attempts made in the Kurdistan Region.

I reaffirm that our efforts to liberate the Ezidi girls and women are still ongoing; they are a vivid example of the disaster and tragedy that were inflicted upon women because of war and violence.  And now that the Kurdistan Parliament is debating a general amnesty law, I call upon the Kurdistan Parliament to exclude those who committed “honour killings” from this law. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s campaign, like the years before, will take two weeks. Outside the campaign, with your help, we will systematically work on this important issue. For us, this is an important part of an evolvement of democracy in the region. We strongly believe that the rights of people can be attained by improving the process of democracy and improving the society.

In the end, I thank you once more for inaugurating this campaign and I commend those who organised this campaign today and I commend the High Council of Women Affairs that loyally carries out its jobs. I would also like to applaud the Ministry of Interior of the KRG for establishing the departments that fight to eliminate the violence against women. I call upon them to further boost their effectiveness and do their jobs even more seriously. Things have been achieved, however; that does not mean we should stop. We shall continue in aiming to reach the goals that we all have been striving for.