Respect: Women in Hawraman at work. (photo: Salam Handani)
It is possible that the northern area of Hawraman, in Iraqi Kurdistan and close to the border with Iran, may be the part of the country where the least violence towards women is committed. According to the local office for human rights in the area, home to around 10,000 inhabitants, there have been no cases of violence against women here for 14 years.
“Not one single complaint was registered by a woman, about any violence against her, in the Hawraman area,” says Kolastan Ahmad, who heads the human rights office in nearby Halabja. “Our observations also indicate that there have been no such incidents in this area.”
According to Iraqi Kurdistan’s General Directorate to Combat Violence Against Women, in 2015 there were 7,456 complaints involving violence against women. The most came out of Erbil which had 153 incidents; this included 23 murders, 120 cases where women were burned and 10 cases of sexual violence. Sulaymaniyah was second, with 125 cases of violence. Exceptionally Hawraman recorded none at all.
Ahmad believes there are several reasons for this. Firstly she thinks the locals here respect women and that people here are also more peace-loving.
“In this area we also have different social customs,” Ahmad continues. “Unlike in other parts of the country, in Hawraman, there is no tradition of dowries, of forced marriage or polygamy.”
“Of course there are problems in families,” says one local from Hawraman, Shireen Saeed. “But somehow they never get violent. I don’t know of any violent acts among my community or my family friends,” says the 54-year-old who got married here 27 years ago.
“The people of Hawraman are educated and confident,” local social worker, Hawkar Rakim suggests another reason for the lack of violence. “Here girls don’t get married until they are older and they have a certain level of maturity. Maybe this is why there are fewer incidents of domestic violence.”
“Throughout Iraqi Kurdistan statistics tell us that one of the main reasons for violence and divorce is misunderstandings between couples,” Rakim continues. “And a lot of those problems occur between couples who married when they were under 18.”
In Hawraman people don’t tend to get married that young, Rakim notes.
When asked whether this might all be good to be true, one local journalist told NIQASH he thought the facts stacked up – there have never been any females murdered in the area, he noted.
A women’s rights activist in Hawraman, Kazal Abdul-Rahman, says she is extremely proud of her area for its statistics in this area.
People in this area are more open toward one another and the women of Hawraman are visible in many areas of work and business, including in administration and in technical areas,” Abdul-Rahman boasts.