Kur­dish women and their his­tory

The Kurdish Globe - - LAST PAGE - Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar

Women are part of our his­tory, and should not be for­got­ten about.

We lack a doc­u­men­ta­tion process in Kur­dis­tan whereby the sto­ries of women are cod­i­fied, and their nar­ra­tives heard. We have a male ver­sion of his­tory that ex­cludes women, and at best does not rep­re­sent us prop­erly.

This week, I wrote some­thing on ‘The Kur­dish na­tional move­ment’ from a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive. I changed my mind just a day be­fore it was set to be pub­lished be­cause of In­ter­na­tional Women’s day which was widely cel­e­brated through­out Kur­dis­tan, and mother’s day, which hap­pens to fall on the 9th of March in Eng­land where my mother cur­rently lives.

Kur­dish his­tory has al­ways fas­ci­nated me, and more so the role of women. I am not a his­to­rian, but have read plenty of books that high­light how strong willed Kur­dish women are, and have been his­tor­i­cally in cham­pi­oning the rights of Kurds. They seem to have in­flu­enced men to a great de­gree even when they were not law­mak­ers, and did not have an of­fi­cial po­lit­i­cal pres­ence. Hay notes in ‘Two years in Kur­dis­tan’ that ‘most chiefs are to a greater or less ex­tent un­der the thumb of their wom­en­folk’.

There are many Kur­dish fe­male per­son­al­i­ties that are both in­spir­ing, and im­por­tant to high­light on In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day and other events that are re­lated to the lib­er­a­tion of women. For in­stance, Hapsa Khan is one of my fa­vorite fe­male per­son­al­i­ties in Kur­dis­tan. She was born into a prom­i­nent fam­ily of Su­lai­ma­nia province in 1881. It is said that she was the woman ‘whose hus­band gets up when she en­ters the room’.

When her fa­ther passed away, she turned their fam­ily home into an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion. On evenings, Kur­dish women were taught how to read and write in her home. It is widely ac­knowl­edged that she es­tab­lished what is con­sid­ered as the first Kur­dish women’s or­ga­ni­za­tion in Iraq. Af­ter she passed away in 1953, her home be­came a pub­lic school. She be­lieved that only through ed­u­ca­tion women can be em­pow­ered and get their free­dom. When she was a young girl, Ed­u­ca­tion was for­bid­den for girls, in­stead like other girls dur­ing her time, she had to stay at home to learn about cook­ing, clean­ing and serv­ing the fam­ily.

Leyla Zana is an­other ex­am­ple of a woman mak­ing his­tory that is rel­e­vant to our so­ci­ety now, and con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous. She is the first Kur­dish woman elected into the Turk­ish par­lia­ment. Af­ter her mar­riage to Me­hdi Zana, who was elected as mayor in the Kur­dish city of Di­yarbakir in 1978. Her hus­band was ar­rested in 1980, and fol­low­ing his ar­rest she taught her­self how to read, write and speak Turk­ish. Within a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time she be­came a pub­lic fig­ure in her own right, and has since won many awards in­clud­ing the Sakharov Prize in 1996.

Our his­tory is filled with the ac­counts of thou­sands of Kur­dish women who did great things for our na­tion. What we have lacked for cen­turies is a doc­u­men­ta­tion process whereby the sto­ries of such great women are known on an in­ter­na­tional level, and not for­got­ten about. Un­for­tu­nately, there is lit­tle in­ter­est given to the field of gen­der stud­ies lo­cally, and on an aca­demic level. As a re­sult we have lit­tle in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Kur­dish women, and their ac­tivism.

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