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July 25, 2011

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Domestic violence in Kurdistan

Kurdishaspect.com - By Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar

Tarah* is married to a lawyer,  and currently lives in Hawler  with her husband and  children. She comes from a  well-off family, and lives in a  very posh area; she says this area will protect her children  from mingling with other  children from ‘low class’  families. Her husband has  repeatedly used violence  when arguing, and to her  divorce is out of the question. Hanar* is someone else that I met in Shaqlawa, she got divorced because her marriage was simply ‘unworkable’ and her husband won custody of her only daughter. Soon after her second marriage, her partner became abusive, and now often beats her. For her divorce is also out of the question.

These are not lone cases; there are many more women who have chosen to stay in abusive relationships for several reasons. Some are financially dependent on their partners, and cannot break out of that vicious cycle of dependency. And there are others who are too embarrassed by the whole ordeal to break out of abusive relationships. Domestic violence exists everywhere, from religious to secular societies; it is loosely defined as physical abuse directed towards one’s partner, and usually it is violence against women, including sexual, verbal and psychological. Sometimes verbal assault is more traumatising than physical assault, and this is often overlooked. Women who experience domestic violence are often left traumatised, depressed and even suicidal. 

Not all Kurdish women choose to stay in abusive marriages. In fact, we’ve seen an increase in divorce throughout Kurdish regions, and it is possible that these women are more resilient than the past generation in facing societal attitude towards divorced women. Gula* is a young adult, she fell in love with a young Kurdish man, and after 6 months their marriage turned sour. Her husband became verbally abusive, and she ended her marriage without hesitation because she was capable of making the choice through the support of her family.

The societal stigma and shame attached to divorce seems to be on the decline, but this has not stopped the common perception of divorced as ‘second hand goods’ and their chances of re-marrying are significantly reduced. So, ending an abusive relationship is not just about escaping, it’s about being able to face a society that does not look kindly at those divorced, or families that aren’t always welcoming to assist their daughter in a divorce.

Domestic violence cannot be tackled easily but it will take local groups to raise awareness from a legal perspective, and even use religious doctrine to speak against this heinous crime. However, regardless of how many local organisations are set up to help women deal with domestic violence, if the government does not provide funds specifically for victims of domestic violence, the extent of help to women is limited. Women must feel protected by law, and receive funds to escape abusive relationships without fearing retaliation. 

*Note: All names above have been changed.

Other articles by Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar 

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