A few days ago the horrifying news about a young girl who was the victim of a honourkilling in Dohuk in Northern Kurdistan spread over the world. Dunya, a 15-year-old girl who was in an arranged marriage with a 45-year-old man, according to kurdishrights.org his name was Sleman Ziad Younis, had been killed by him and the photos of her mutilated body filled the internet.
These news are unfortunately not rare in Kurdistan. Violence against women is a wide spread phenomenon – I dare saying this as I have worked with women’s rights issues in the region – and many of these crimes are swept under the rug and forgotten. Only in 2011 domestic violence became illegal in Kurdistan and even though this legal change marked a great step forward, the process of actually implementing the law and change attitudes is very long, as always when a society is in a process of change and is developing from a troubled past. Unfortunately the change was not quick enough for Dunya.
But in the aftermath of the petrifying news something happened. Women’s rights groups – there’s quite a few of them, consisting of both men and women – started to call for a mobilization against what had happened. I actually first found out about this story when one of my male Facebookfriends who is a human rights activist changed his profile picture to the picture of a young Dunya. Progessive Kurdish media condemned the causes of the murder, not only the act itself; Dunya’s parents selling off their little girl to an old man, the society not taking actions against it. Events were being set up to demonstrate against violence against women and in support of the girls as Dunya. Yesterday May 29 the first event was held, a demonstration outside the Kurdistan parliament in Erbil called “Stand up for Dunya”.
I asked my Kurdish friend Camaran who went how he thought the event was, and he answered:
“Today I went to the civil protest that took place in front of the Parliament, and continued for an hour in which the civil servants and human right activists spoke about the ordeals that women experience in their daily life in Kurdistan.
Dunya has become the symbol of such brutality. A 15 years old child!
But I was generally disappointed at the number of participants… out of 2000 something people that responded to the event on Facebook, only around 150 people showed up.“
But even though Camaran was disappointed fewer people than expected showed up, the event marked an important change. Also the fact that he as a man was there and participated in the struggle, just like my other male friend who made Dunya’s photo his Facebook profile picture. Some years ago a similar sight would have been impossible.
Noor Al-Dubais (left) and Taammul Al-Dubais (right)
Photo credit: saudigazette.com.sa
Two sisters from Sanabis town on Tarout Island on the Eastern coast of Saudi Arabia made headlines this week as some of the few professional women divers in the country.
The local newspaper Saudi Gazette reports that Noor and Taammul Al-Dubais were raised in a seafaring family and that they have been surrounded by water all their lives. Noor was 5 when her father taught her how to breath under water and the sisters held their international diving licenses as 10 year olds. Now they wish to pass on their passion for diving to other girls. They are diving as a professional duo and have been diving on many different occasions.
They started to dive in the city of Jubail on the east coast, around Jana Island. Noor says to the newspaper Alsharq daily, regarding her diving experiences in the Red Sea off the coast of Jeddah:
”I swam among the beautiful coral reefs as if I was a bird flying in a garden. I enjoy diving because my soul separates from my body when I am at great depths.”
She says she finds guidance in her parents and that her friends from school encouraged her. The sisters’ father has been a great supporter and he himself is also a diver and a fisherman. He is also Noor’s and Taammul’s professional trainer and has designed a special diving suit for women that he said respects Saudi customs and traditions. Sports for Saudi women are not accepted by everyone and professional sports women in the Kingdom are an exception. But the sisters’ father says:
“Noor and Taammul are part of a diving family that loves to look for coral reefs and explore the magical waters of the Gulf. All of my sons and daughters are divers.”
Hopefully Noor and Taammul will set an example for many other brave young women around the world.
So there are many things you should brush off your shoulders so as not to be bitter, but when people assume I appreciate racist talk because I’m white, I get angry. The other day it happened again and I haven’t been able to let it go, despite many other nice things in my life right now.
No need to dwell on what was being said but let me make a general statement: it bothers me when you assume that since I’m white, an intolerant or racist comment will pass. It hurts me that you assume I think in these terms because of my looks. It also hurts me if you are not white and because of my skin assume I hold prejudices against you.
I get upset when I accidently come across racist blogs with many followers. I get upset when I browse blogs and see categories such as “Whites are crazy” or blog posts called “Black scumbags” (I won’t even link to these kind of blogs here to tell you what I’m talking about).
If you ever cross my way, please don’t tell me things like the immigrants come here because of the benefits, or call Asians Pakis. Also don’t insinuate that I dislike Muslims, don’t confront me about racist Swedes because I’m not one of them (I’m more than happy to discuss the phenomenon though). I would never hold your country’s failure against you as an individual. Or what the majority of people from your group might do or think. All of it is just another hole in the already bumpy road towards coexistence.
You might not know me and my commitment to tolerance, but you shouldn’t have to know that before you judge me, because you don’t even know me.
On the evening of the Iraqi elections yesterday my Facebook newsfeed was filled with Iraqi friends and aquintances who happily showed their ink coloured fingers on snapshots uploaded from smartphones. Iraq has been tormented by more violence the last weeks before the elections – still so many Iraqis seemed happy and hopeful.
I caught myself thinking, when was the last time I had a snapshot of myself on election day? That was a long time ago. The last years I have been so worried by the increasing intolerance in Sweden that I haven’t enjoyed the moment of voting.
I asked Dina Najem, women’s rights activist in Baghdad whom I previously interviewed for my blog, on her thoughts about the election and the future. She answered:
“We hope in this elections we vote for new faces to be in our new parlement. We hope that they can hear our voices and we want a new Iraq. We want to build the future and change our country from the war to the new Iraq that can be developing and educating. The outcome will be better for us because we need to change and we need to achive our dream. I am very happy today because I believe in change, and all the Iraqi youth want that change.“
With such a hope for the future it’s hard to stay pessimistic. I’ll borrow some of the Iraqi courage this September, when our next election is due.