Today is the 46th anniversary of the execution of one of the symbols of the Kurdish women’s struggle Leyla Qasim and she is still shining a light and inspiration for women’s resistance in the Middle East.
She was the third out of five children born to a Kurdish family in the city of Xanegin in Northern Iraq. Despite being poor, her father insisted she went to school so she could receive an education. Later the family moved to Baghdad and Leyla Qasim went to college at Baghdad University in the Sociology Department. There she met with the Kurdistan Students Union (YXK) at the age of 20.
She became one of the prominent figures of the Kurdish Students Movement in those years and was targetted for writing an article on Saddam Hussein’s hostility to the Kurdish people.
The Kurdish struggle pioneered by Kurdistan Democratic Party was continuing in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan those years and Leyla Qasim joined the struggle in the mountains too.
In 1974 Iraqi forces were attacking the regions where Kurdish people were living and Saddam Hussain was murdering civilians. Leyla Qasim and her friends organised resistance defence actions against it. On 28 April 1974, she was detained together with four others and accused of attempting to hijack a plane. They were arrested and tortured but never bowed down on her knees despite such horrific torture.
In April 1974 she was hanged after a lengthy show trial, broadcast throughout Iraq. She was able to meet with her mother and sister before she died. Her last words were:”Kill me! But you must also know that after my death thousands of Kurds will wake up. I feel proud to sacrifice my life for freedom”
Leyla Qasim was 22 years old when she died for struggling for freedom and justice for Kurds.