Article source co-authored with Johanna HIGGS : Killing is Not My Culture: Women Challenging Honor Killings in Iraqi Kurdistan


The situation for women in Iraqi Kurdistan has, not always been so dire. In the 1970s and 1980s women enjoyed much more freedom, but the rise of Islamic groups’ influence has inspired people to become increasingly more “religious.”

For Bahar Osman from Zhyan Group, a woman’s rights organization in Iraqi Kurdistan, fighting against the many cultural traditions, that discriminate against women and girls, is not easy.

When she first began her work for women’s rights in Iraqi Kurdistan, she was threatened by some of the Islamic parties in the region who claimed that women’s rights were against their culture and against Islam.  Fearing for her life, she fled to Norway where she stayed for 13 years. She has since returned to Kurdistan to continue to her work for women’s rights work, but continues to receive threats from some of Islamists in the country. A security guard remains stationed at her gate. “It’s a very big problem to be a woman’s rights activist in Kurdistan,” she lamented.

A domestic violence law was been passed through parliament in 2008, officially outlawing honor killings in Kurdistan. However, religious leaders continue to claim that laws that protect women from violence are against Islam.  Despite this resistance,there are some Islamic scholars who have spoken against honor killings. Quoting texts from the Qur’an chapter 24 (Surah An-Nur) and from the Fiqh, they argue that in the case a sexual transgression is committed and where there have been at least four eye-witnesses, both the man and the woman involved in the sexual transgression should be punished.

Killing outside of self-defense deviates outside of Muslims beliefs. The Qu’ran does not allow for women to be killed and followers of Islam should observe these rules as stated in the initial verse of this chapter