Fwd [GLW}: KURDISTAN: Women launch campaign against PUK attacks

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Aug 13 07:41:29 MDT 2000


The following articles are from the current issue of Green Left Weekly
(http://www.greenleft.org.au).

KURDISTAN: Women launch campaign against PUK attacks
BY LISA MACDONALD

On July 21, the armed forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK),
which rules Iraqi Kurdistan with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, under the
protection of United States imperialism, forcibly closed the offices of the
Independent Women's Organisation (IWO) and its women's shelter in
Sulaymaniyah. The 12 women and five children who were in the shelter at the
time were arrested and are still in custody.

The women are all victims of violence, having been mutilated or threatened
with death by family members for breaking Iraq's 1400-year-old family laws
which allow the legal killing of women who cause a “scandal” and bring
“shame” on their family. Since 1991, more than 5000 women have been
murdered in Iraqi Kurdistan alone.

The closure of the IWO office and the women's shelter will leave many more
women vulnerable to such “honour” killings. The shelter was opened in 1998
and is the only one of its kind in the Middle East. It was supported and
guarded by members of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI), and had
saved more than 75 women from death or torture before it was closed.

The IWO has been targeted by the PUK because it has campaigned relentlessly
against the family laws and had built strong public support for its
demands. On International Women's Day last year, the IWO organised a
10,000-strong march of women and men demanding that the laws be repealed.

The attack on the IWO has been accompanied by attacks on the WCPI, in which
six members have been killed by government forces and the rest have been
forced into exile or underground.

The Committee for the Defence of Iraqi Women's Rights in Australia has
launched a campaign to reverse the PUK's latest attacks on women's and
human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Rizan Nadir, secretary of the CDIWR, told Green Left Weekly that supporters
of human rights in Australia must demand that the Australian government
press the PUK to:

•immediately release the women and children, without conditions;

•guarantee their safety and not allow them to be returned to their families
(and almost certain death);

•allow the women's shelter and the IWO office to reopen and operate freely,
and return all the information seized took from these premises; and

•allow progressive organisations, including the IWO, to work legally in
Iraqi Kurdistan.

At a June 28 meeting in Canberra with the federal parliament's Women's
Rights Sub-committee, the CDIWR was assured that the issue would be raised
with all senators and a letter sent to the PUK demanding that it overturn
the reactionary family laws and stop the killings of women. However, on
August 1, Nadir was informed that the sub-committee will not be raising the
issue. It seems that the Australian government's relations with the US are
more important than the lives of women and children in Iraq.

The CDIWR is asking Green Left Weekly readers to write to the Women's
Rights Sub-committee urging it to honour its promise to raise the issue and
to insist that the Australian government urgently press the PUK to meet the
demands listed above.

Fax letters to Patrick Regan at (02) 6277 2221 or telephone (02) 6277 4541.
Copies should be sent to the United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan
(Iraqi Kurdistan has “protectorate” status with the UN) and to Amnesty
International, which has a representative in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Please send copies to the CDIWR at PO Box 3051 Parramatta 2140, fax (02)
9633 4428, or email <rizan at ihug.com.au>.

Donations are urgently needed to help secure the health and safety of the
IWO campaigners in Iraq, who have been forced into hiding. Please send
cheques to the CDIWR and circulate this appeal among your own contacts.





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