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.
Photo credit: nrttv. com