At least 64 women were murdered in Iraqi Kurdistan in the first nine months of 2023, according to a report by the Kurdistan Free Women’s Movement (RJAK).
There were 75 recorded femicides in the previous year, the activist group said. Violence against women, which has risen by 33 percent since 2016, was most prevalent within families, they found.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) does not keep specific records on femicides, leaving activist networks to collect their own data.
“Many” of the perpetrators are members of the KDP, RJAK member Gulizar Evîn told Mezopotamya Agency. “That is why they are cleared by the judiciary.”
A significant portion of femicides are recorded as suicides, Evîn said. “Women are killed here, their murders legitimised under the guise of ‘honour’.”
Policies implemented by the conservative-traditional KDP “pave the way for both families and clans to massacre women”, she added. “Women don’t trust official bodies to seek help, and end up dying in silence.”
Iraqi Kurdistan’s judiciary “works under the shadow of patriarchal thinking”, Evîn said. “They think femicides in the name of honour are legitimate, and that saps the courage from women’s and human rights organisations.”
Despite a law that recognises honour killings as first degree murder, and the government establishing four women’s shelters, the region has not seen improvement. According to the BBC, women still need to be transferred to the few existing shelters by police order, which can be difficult to obtain. There is one independent shelter in the region, operated by the women’s NGO Asuda.