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Nechirvan Barzani: KRG has taken major steps to protect women rights

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (cabinet.gov.krd) – Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani kicked off a two-week campaign to eliminate violence against women.

During a speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Barzani said the Kurdistan Regional Government has taken important steps to legally protect women rights, however more awareness campaigns are needed to end the violation of women rights.

Below is the transcript of Mr. Barzani’s speech.

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.  I would like to welcome you to this ceremony on the launch of a two-week campaign to eliminate violence against women.

I salute our Peshmerga heroes, who are fighting the largest terrorist organization as I speak, in order to protect peace in the world. I salute the families of our fallen heroes. I wish the Iraqi Army a swift victory in the liberation of the city of Mosul, with minimal causalities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The protection of human rights is a pillar of good governance, which includes the protection of women rights. It is government’s responsibility to protect the rights of all its citizens; however it needs the help of civil society organizations to do so.  The laws are important for the protection of human rights, including women rights. However, the laws can’t guarantee the full protection of human rights without proper social awareness. Therefore, I am asking the High Council of Women Affairs of the Council of Ministers, all women rights and civil society organizations to initiate more campaigns for legal and social awareness in our society, especially among women.

Distinguished guests,

The Kurdistan Regional Government is committed to the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993 that defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Since 2008 and in coordination with the Kurdistan Parliament, the Kurdistan Regional Government has taken important steps to legally protect women rights.  Amending Iraqi Personal Status Law in 2008 [No. 188 of 1959] and ratifying Article Eight on Elimination of Domestic Violence in 2011, which outlaws any gender-based violence, are milestones in the protection of women rights.

The so called ‘honor killing’ that was overlooked by the Iraqi law and used as an excuse to justify killing women, has been completely banned in Kurdistan, and the crime is considered as intentional homicide.  The Kurdistan Region has also banned all forms of forced marriages and female circumcision, restricted polygamy, and reformed inheritance law to guarantee a fair share for females.  By revising and introducing these laws, the differences in protection of women rights between the Kurdistan Region and other parts of Iraq have become immense. These laws have enabled the Kurdistan Regional Government to take practical and systematic steps to curb violence against women. The government has established a directorate for combating violence against women, and established shelters for women under threat. It has also established courts and appointed special prosecutors within police stations to investigate cases related to violence against women.

These were daring, unprecedented and important steps in our Region. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the late thinker and scholar Mustafa Zalmi, who answered our call and played a major role in reforming the Personal Status Law and ratifying Elimination of Domestic Violence Law.  Religious scholars also played a major role in supporting the steps mentioned above in the Kurdistan Region.

Distinguished guests,

The statistics of the General Directorate of Combating Violence Against Women indicate that the rate of violence against women in the Kurdistan Region is not steady. In the meantime, fortunately, the same statistics indicate that the cases of murder and self-immolation have decreased compared to the past years. But these figures and data are still not satisfactory.
However, we should note that fortunately all the violence committed against women are now documented and registered, contrary to the time when all these acts were unknown. The relevant bodies take legal actions against perpetrators of violent acts.
Combating violence against women and domestic violence requires further changes to curriculums in Kurdistan schools and universities. Respecting women and considering violence against women as abnormal phenomenon, should be part of our culture and education, starting from elementary school.

Here, I like to say a word about the important role of the religious scholars. Many of them have played a positive role in encouraging members of society to refrain from committing violence against women. However, their work in this domain still has a long way to go, as violence is still committed against women in our society. This is why, I call on all religious scholars to launch awareness on protecting the right of women as a prioritized religious, human and national duty. I also call on the KRG Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs and the Union of Islamic Scholars to adopt specific programs on this issue.

Dear guests,

Through its cruel acts and attacks, the Islamic State group, ISIS, has terrorized the world. But its crimes against the Yezidi Kurdish women were the cruelest ones, which they can never be forgotten. But we did not stand idly by. We immediately launched a massive operation to rescue and protect them.

By establishing a special bureau in charge of rescuing our Yezidi Kurdish sisters and mothers, abducted by ISIS, we have made great progress. Since ISIS attack in August of 2014 in the Sinjar area, we have rescued 2,890 Yezidi women, children and men. Only last week our bureau rescued 18 Kurdish Yezidi and Christian women and children in Tel Afar from terrorists. We will continue in our efforts to recue all of them.

This collective abduction and massacre has left deep psychological effect on the victims and their families. The Duhok-based Centre for Rehabilitation and Support for rescued women from ISIS terrorists has so far provided psychological and physical treatment to more than 824 Yezidi and Christian women rescued from ISIS captivity. In this regard, the Kurdistan Regional Government needs the support of international specialized organizations.

Dear participants,

At this annual two-week campaign of combating violence against women, I would like to say that in order to eliminate the effects of war and war crimes on our society, and all other negative effects, we need a continued campaign to eradicate violence in our society. We also need to combat the bases of violence in our thoughts and mentalities.

Today as the Peshmerga have become a symbol of protection of freedom in the world, our society must reach the level of applying all the legal principles of freedoms and combat all forms of violence that threaten women in Kurdistan.

Violating women’s legal freedoms undermines the progress and stability in Kurdistan’s society. Therefore, we have to be careful and promote awareness and guarantee the implementation of the laws of the KUrdistan Region.

I would like to welcome you again and i hope to see a decline and elimination of violence in Kurdistan and across the world.  I would also like to thank all organizations who worked with the High Council of Women Affairs to combat violence aganist women.  My special thanks goes to special units of Ministry of Interior, who work day and night to protect women rights.

And awareness is very important to combat violence against women, as mentioned by German Consul.  It is very important to promote social awareness, from schools to mosques.  If we have proper awareness, I am sure we will be a leader in combating violence against women in the region.

Thank you all.

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