The woman who was assassinated in broad daylight in Kirkuk (Kerkûk), Iraq, on Friday has been identified as Firyal Silêman Xalid, a Kurdish politician originally from Hasakah (Hesekê) in northeast Syria. The killing took place on 18 January in front of the Sêgirme Middle School and High School, located in the Rehimava district of Kirkuk.
Xalid, also recognised by her nom de guerre Zelal Zagros, was attacked by gunmen on motorcycles who used a silencer-equipped firearm. Xalid had dedicated 31 years to the struggle for the freedom of Kurdish women and the broader Kurdish community across the Middle East.
Born in 1975 in a patriotic family in Hasakah, Xalid joined the Kurdish liberation movement in the 1990s. She played a pivotal role in establishing women’s organisations and fostering solidarity among Kurdish, Arab and Syriac communities. Her activism extended from the Kurdistan mountains to Armenia, where she worked for 15 and 8 years, respectively. Following the start of what is known as the 19 July 2012 Rojava Revolution which marked the Kurds’ expulsion of Syrian government forces and establishment of a democratic, multi-ethnic autonomous region in northern Syria, Xalid moved to Rojava to share her experience and was instrumental in the liberation of Manbij (Minbic) from the Islamic State (ISIS) and the establishment of the Manbij Democratic Autonomous Administration. Her efforts continued in Deir ez-Zor (Dêrazor) and Damascus, focusing on women’s empowerment.
Firyal Silêman Xalid’s assassination has been linked to the ongoing pattern of violence against Kurdish female activists in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This act is part of a broader campaign targeting Kurdish political figures and activists. Recent incidents, such as the severe injury of Delila Agit, a reporter for Jin TV, in a drone strike and the killing of Kurdish feminist journalist and academic Nagihan Akarsel, illustrate the risks faced by women who bring Kurdish issues to the international stage. These assassinations are often seen as an attempt to suppress Kurdish feminist thought and their significant contribution to the Kurdish liberation movement. Autonomy-seeking Kurdish institutions, especially those led by women, have been recurrent targets, as they are perceived as a significant threat to far-right nationalists and religious fundamentalists.
The Kurdistan Women’s Community (KJK) Coordination directly accused the Turkish government of orchestrating the assassination, citing it as part of a broader strategy to suppress the Kurdish women’s movement and create unrest in Kirkuk. In their statement, the KJK vowed to enhance their resolve in the wake of these political assassinations.
Kongra Star, the European Kurdish Women’s Movement (TJK-E), and Freedom Movement (Tevgera Azadî) have also expressed their indignation over the attack. Kongra Star lauded Xalid’s contributions to the struggle for women’s freedom and called for a powerful response to such attacks. TJK-E asserted that the attack was a direct assault on the women’s organisation and vowed “to counteract this fascist, genocidal mindset” with their resistance. Freedom Movement called for solidarity among freedom-loving individuals and women to support the freedom fighters and resist these attacks.
The Martyrs’ Families Council from Afrin (Efrîn) and Shahba (Şehba) Cantons condemned the assassination, interpreting it as an attempt to thwart the free women’s revolution and disrupt national unity. They urged international bodies to intervene to prevent such attacks and hold the perpetrators accountable.
An image extracted from what appears to be CCTV footage has been disseminated by Kurdish sources, presenting two individuals on a motorbike. Kurdish sources identify them as alleged agents of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT). The image seems to depict the moment immediately after the assassination, with the individuals on the motorbike ostensibly in the act of fleeing the scene.