Kurdistan's Battered Women: Out Of Shelters, Into Danger And Honour Killings
When a woman leaves a shelter for battered women in Iraqi Kurdistan, her family often has to sign a pledge guaranteeing the woman’s safety. This is because of the prevalence of honour killings in the region. But apparently the pledges, signed before a judge, are not working. So women’s rights activists are demanding a change in the law.
Rules about the shelters for abused women in the northern province of Iraqi Kurdistan say that any woman who has sought shelter there should never go back to her family unless the relatives sign a pledge, before a judge, guaranteeing her ongoing safety.
But somehow these pledges and rules do not seem to be making any difference, local women’s rights activists say. Women who seek shelter because they are in danger are going back to their families and facing that danger once again.
Police statements in Erbil show examples of this. For example, between the end of February and mid-March this year two women were killed by their families. One was murdered three days after she left the shelter and the other two days after she returned home. According to the information gathered by the government-run General Directorate to Combat Violence Against Women in Sulaymaniyah, 218 women have sought help from them since the beginning of this year up until November 15.
But only 25 people actually remained in the shelter, and among them, nine were children. This indicates that most women do leave the shelter again and return home.
“During the last few years we have been giving priority to the desires of the women to leave the shelter and return home,” Korda Omar, who heads the General Directorate to Combat Violence Against Women, told NIQASH. “However since a number of the women who left the shelters have been killed, investigators into domestic violence cases now have to prove that the woman will not be harmed if she goes home.”
“The pledge families have to make is not enough to stop them killing their daughters,” Omar admitted, “especially if it is a case of honour.”