Almost exactly a century ago, the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja made local history by appointing a woman as its mayor. Adela Khanem was the first Kurdish woman to hold a post like this. The wife of a local tribal leader and mother of two poets, Khanem was considered a progressive leader, building schools and engaging in construction projects, during her tenure between 1909 and 1915. Locals says that Khanem changed Halabja from a village to a city filled parks and waterways.
Now, just over a century later, Nuxsha Naseh, 38, who was recently given the job of mayor, is hoping to be just as successful as her female predecessor. Naseh believes that Kurdish women in this area have proven themselves many times. "Women in Halabja worked alongside men in the fields for a long time and now they work alongside men in administration, holding senior positions. Female opinions are listened to and women participate in all forums," says Nash, who was the administrator of the Biyare district in Halabja for seven years before getting her new job. "Appointing women to senior positions is nothing new in Halabja. The educated people of the city have always supported this idea."
Naseh knows her job will not be an easy one though. Locals in Halabja recently organised protests because of a lack of state services and the delay in the payment of government employees' salaries, due to the financial crisis.
Naseh says she wants to resolve this issue and revive projects that have been postponed due the financial crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan. She also wants to take more control over prices in local markets, improve social services, work on women's rights and ensure security. And last but not least, she also wants to improve the amount of green spaces in Halabja. And of course, she wants to do all this while living up to the example provided by her predecessor.