As one of the outputs of the EU project, CGDS has produced and taken part in creating monthly podcasts on gender issues so as to raise awareness of gender advocacy. Topics included are: the work of women’s rights organization, establishment of the first gender studies centers, the thoughts of students who have taken the first gender studies minor in Iraq, the role of media in reinforcing gender stereotypes and providing a platform to misogynists, the personal growth of individual women’s rights activists and writers, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, women and Islam, LGBTQ issues, gender and health, gender and mental health, and gender violence.

وەک یەکێک لە چالاکییەکانی پرۆژەکەی یەکێتی ئەورووپا، سەنتەری جێندەر و گەشەپێدان مانگانە پۆدکاستی بەرھەمھێناوە یان بەشداری لە بەرنامەی میدیاییدا کردووە سەبارەت بە پرسە جێندەرییەکان بۆ ئەوەی پەرە بە ھوشیاری گشتی لەم بوارەدا بدات. بابەتەکان پێکھاتوون لە کاری ڕێکخراوەکانی ژنان، دامەزراندنی یەکەم سەنتەرەکانی توێژینەوەی جێندەر لە زانکۆکاندا، بیرکرنەوەی ئەو قوتابییانەی خوێنەری یەکەم ماددەی لاوەکی جێندەر بوون لە عێراقدا، ڕۆلی میدیا لە دوبارە بەرھەمھێنانەوەی لەقاڵبدانە جێندەرییەکاندا و دابینکردنی ڕووبەری قسەکردن بۆ کەسانی ژنبێز، گەشەکردنی تایبەتی ژنانی چالاکوان و نووسەر، کاریگەرییەکانی کۆرۆنا بۆسەر ژنان، ژن لە ئیسلامدا، پرسی کۆمەڵگەی پەلکەزێڕینە، جێندەر و تەندروستی، جێندەر و باری دەروونی، و جێندەر و توندوتیژی

كواحد من مخرجات مشروع الاتحاد الأوروبي، أنتج وشارك سنتر الدراسات التنموية والجندرية في إنشاء ملفات بودكاست شهرية حول قضايا الجندر من أجل زيادة الوعي بالدفاع عن الجندر وشملت المواضيع: عمل منظمات حقوق المرأة ، وإنشاء المراكز الأولى لدراسات الجندر، وأفكار الطالبات اللواتي حصلن على أول تخصص فرعي في دراسات الجندر في العراق، ودور الإعلام في تعزيز الصور النمطية للنوع الاجتماعي وتوفير منبر لكره النساء، النمو الشخصي للنشطاء والكتاب في مجال حقوق المرأة، وتأثير جائحة كورونا على النساء، والمرأة والإسلام، وقضايا مجتمع الميم، والجندر والصحة ، والجندر والصحة العقلية، والعنف القائم على الجندر

Dr. Lynn Rose Interviews AUIS' Gender Minors

In this interview, four students: Ms. Tara Mohammed, Ms. Raz Hayder, Mr Zhira Bazaaz, and Ms. Nishtiman Awsman—were invited to talk about their experiences taking the gender minor. They touched upon their motivations for doing the minor, the central “take-home message” from their classes, and possible backlash they received by taking the minor or talking about feminism. Additionally, they offered their reflections on how potential employers and graduate school admission committees might perceive the minor. 
The Gender Minor is interdisciplinary and consists of eight courses, from which students choose five. Spread across three departments: English, Math and Sciences, and Social Sciences, they range chronologically from ancient Greek to the present, and in subject matter from health science to literature to religious studies. At the time of the interview fifteen students have declared the minor, which the first students completed in the spring of 2020. Students come from a variety of majors, and reflect a male female ratio of 1:3.

Dr. Choman Hardi Interview with Jin Tv

This interview discusses Mullah Mazhar Khorasany and the utilization of this TV channel to insult Kurdish women, whom he calls ‘dinosaurs’, and endorse polygamy, which has been restricted under Kurdish law since 2008. Furthermore, he uses his channel to incite hatred against women’s rights activists and their organizations, and mobilizes his fanbase by using religion as a pretext. The interview highlighted the mainstream and populist media’s role in providing a platform to radical and conservative imams, alongside critiquing the popular religious and cultural discourses that legitimize women’s oppression.

Dr. Choman Hardi Interview with Aryen Tv

This interview consisted of multiple guests. Next to Dr. Choman Hardi was Awat Mohamad, writer and activist, and Aras Galawezh, an activist for equal rights.
Awas starts with pointing out how the role of women progressed in history. Elaborating on how women now participate in the current societal and legal institutions, he gives credit to the support women’s organizations have provided that enabled this advancement. However, he considers it crucial to remember that we still find ourselves in a beginning stage regarding women’s presence in society. This is underlined by the community’s hesitation to encourage women and their advancement.
Dr. Choman Hardi continues by discussing how the effects of a patriarchal society are revealed once the patriarchal system is threatened. By standing up against patriarchy, both as women and as a society, the chances of domestic violence and gender based violence might increase. In this way, the system attempts to remain in control. Dr. Hardi furthermore elaborates on the different perceptions and misconceptions of gender. For instance, gender is sometimes misperceived as a factor that destroys marriages, or as a concept that is all about loose sexual behaviour in society. Finally, she emphasizes how to understand gender as a social construct, explaining that like the ‘sex’ of a person pertains to binary biological differences, the ‘gender’ of a person describes the social characteristics of ‘men’ and ‘women’.
Aras Galawezh stressed the importance of highlighting who the victims are within this patriarchal system. As he pointed out, men are the victims who are shaped by society to stand against a community in which women have equal roles.
Collectively the participants highlighted how governmental institutions, religious institutions, and society at large should encourage equal rights whenever and wherever possible. Through their influence in society, religious figures and institutions can impact the way in which equality is perceived. Governmental institutions can advocate for female politicians and women’s rights. Society at large should stand for ending the inequality between men and women, and refuse to further the divide.

Dr. Akeel Abbas Interviews Rawan Salim

Rawan’s father and his liberal views has significantly impacted her growth and way of thinking. He used to tell her: “The ones who build their nest within a nest, will forever live in (intellectual) slavery”. From an early age, she would read Ali Al-Wardi, Russian literature, and various other books and journals. All these aspects helped shape her current mentality and understanding of equality and equity for women. Additionally, Hanaa Edwar in particular had a tremendous impact on her growth.
While she grew up in a conventional city, Hillah, her neighborhood is considered extremely conservative. However people got accustomed to Rawan being liberal, as they saw her growing up and evolving into this direction. Interestingly, if other girls were to do this they would be the subject of suspicion and questions.

Rawan’s opinion differs from that of her family. For example, her mother wears an abaya, and some of her sisters wear a hijab. Growing up, she faced harassment from her Islamia Teacher (Islamic Studies Teacher). If she did not wear the hijab, she was threatened with failure for her classes. She struggled making friends at her school because all the girls wore hijab, and she would occasionally face problems. The following year she therefore changed schools, relocating to one with a 30min distance by car. This school was better in terms of education and toleration in regards to diversity, and many girls there did not wear the hijab.

Throughout her activism, Rawan faced both criticism and support in extremes, there was no moderation; either extreme support or extreme criticism. She was part of the protests that occurred on the streets of Tahrir Square, Baghdad, in October. Taking an extra bold step, she took her piano from home and played the national anthem and music on the square. After the demonstrations her family became more supportive to her, as her other sisters participated in the protests as well.
Once she finishes 12th grade, Rawan wants to become a journalist. She believes that journalism and media allow us to delve deeper into the social problems of communities, and influences society to improve its mentality.
Her final message to girls and women who want to be free from boundaries and restrictions is that: “The journey is very long, but the destination is strong and happy. Always struggle and fight, and as Ghandi once said: “people threw stones on me, and I collected the stones and built my own home”.”

Dr. Lynn Rose Interviews Alex Poppe

Poppe’s book, ‘Girl, World’, was named a 35 Over 35 Debut Book Award winner, First Horizon Award finalist, Montaigne Medal finalist, was short-listed for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize, and was awarded an Honorable Mention in General Fiction from the Eric Hoffer Awards. In addition, her short fiction has been a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Family Matters contest, a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and commended for the Baker Prize, among others. Her non-fiction was named a Best of the Net nominee (2016), a finalist for Hot Metal Bridge's Social Justice Writing contest and has appeared in Bust and Bella Caledonia along with others. At the moment, she is working on her third book of fiction with support from Can Serrat International Art Residency and Duplo-Linea De Costa Artist in Residency programs.
Ms. Alex spoke about gender and writing in general, and about how gender has interacted with and shaped her writing process. Additionally, she addressed how the female characters in her fiction get heard, despite the fact that women often get ignored and interrupted, their words discredited. Alex’s stories are immediate and often gritty. The description on Amazon.com for her most recent novel is the following: “Jax, a magazine model, has had half her face destroyed in a bomb blast. Drowning in whiskey and self-loathing, she must rebuild her life now that her beauty is gone. Part love letter to New York, part social justice commentary, Moxie is a timely and raw portrayal of the sometimes self-destructive search for identity and redemption.” Jax is on both sides of the spectrum: a sort of airy—if not vapid—pretty-girl teenager, as seen in her diary entries, and a very astute, strong-spoken—if not foul mouthed—woman. Of course her situation (being a model, surviving a bomb blast in Morocco) is atypical.

Following from here, Poppe discussed the rites of passage that take us from girls to women. She went on to talk about her third book and about her nonfiction work, after which the conversation turned to the value of fiction in advancing social justice.

Dr. Akeel Abbas Interviews Tamara Imad

This interview was conducted via Skype.
Studying Media and Television at university; Imad started as a blogger on Tumblr. Having various interests, she started writing about politics, human rights, and social life.
Imad addresses gender inequality in Iraq. She argues that from the moment of birth, women face discrimination. She couldn’t go outside of her home without a male companion, or to the market without her mother. In addition, many women have left their jobs because of their family, husband, or society. Furthermore, there have also been cases of women getting killed for not wearing the Hijab (veil).
Her interest in gender equality and women’s rights started through her childhood experiences. She began reading and understood that women everywhere in the world face some sort of discrimination. The Journalist points out that both men and women face difficulties in journalism and reporting, but women face them more often. Males usually receive favoritism over females. Investigative journalism is also difficult for women. In order to gather information they have to travel to different places and gather clues. Because Tamara Imad is a woman, she faces blackmail in the process of retrieving information for her stories. Young female journalists face more challenges than older female journalists; especially if they wear the hijab.
Additionally she worked with some Arabic media channels in the gulf, writing about civil rights and women’s rights. Working with non-Iraqi media, Imad was more empowered and taken seriously.
Finally, Ms. Tamara Imad advises aspiring young girls who want to become journalists: to build their capacity, read more, learn more and become more empowered.
CGDS Interviews Dr. Najat Mohammad Faraj

In this podcast, the production of which is funded by a generous EU grant, Dr. Choman Hardi, CGDS Director, and Mr. Rasti Ranj, LSE Hub Regional Manager, interview Dr. Najat Mohammad Faraj, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Sulaimani and the Director of the first gender center in Kurdistan. In this interview, speakers review their experiences with establishing the first gender center. Both directors discuss how the process of opening these centers developed, and what impacts, obstacles, and misconceptions they faced.

Dr. Najat mentions that she was approached in the Autumn of 2010 by the president of the University of Sulaimani with the idea of a gender center. The center was originally named “Center for Gender Studies and Gender Based Violence”. A protocol was signed between the University of Sulaimani and the University of Bristol, with the support of the British Council and others, to set up the center.
After opening the center, she faced various obstacles and difficulties. Her own peers did not take her seriously; some even disregarded her and told her that they did not believe in such ideologies. Regardless, she mentions there were three colleagues, being Dr. Payman Abdulqadir Majid, Dr. Niyan Namiq Sadiq, and Dr. Jwan Baxtyar Bahadin, who decided to help her with the project. Another obstacle were the misconceptions that surrounded the concept of gender. Dr. Najat recalls how the male faculty would pass by and look away in discomfort. Gender itself was a concept that was misconstrued. It was regarded by society as women’s sexuality, homosexuality, and promiscuity.
Dr. Choman Hardi discusses her experience with opening the Center for Gender and Development Studies, CGDS, at AUIS. She says that unlike Dr. Najat Mohammad, the American University of Iraq (its employees, faculty, and others) were very supportive of the idea. One barrier Dr. Choman did face, however, was that she did not have any funds. Another obstacle was the stigma surrounding the gender classes that Dr. Choman would teach and had taught in the past.
The interview concludes by answering common questions regarding gender and CGDS. The questions included: Why are all feminists angry and agitated? Do feminists hate men? Can feminists only be women? Will being a feminist have an effect on my career? How influential are funds (such as CGDS’s EU fund) in raising awareness about these topics and having discussions that impact society’s original perspective?

Dr. Akeel Abbas Interviews Ms. Maysoon Al-Damluji

Maysoon Al-Damluji is a liberal Iraqi politician and women’s rights campaigner. In this interview, she speaks about her experiences in politics as a woman.
She starts off by pointing out that in certain aspects, women have contributed more than men inside the parliament, even though they are still a minority in this institution. Matters regarding women do not get warranted equal attention and support. Domestic violence cases are neither supported enough for a victim to want to come forward, nor for a person to be held accountable in court. The ones in opposition of domestic violence laws are those who believe that the application of such laws in the country would detract the power in their own homes. Indeed, it is due to the lack of any regulation that allows them and gives them the power to treat their families in whatever manner they desire. Certain members of parliament suggested providing departments in local police stations that welcome abused women, kids, and even men to report to the police. The majority of parliament rejected the idea, stating that they do not want their wives or kids to be associated with men in the department. They argued that they would only consider the idea if these departments were run by female police officers as opposed to male ones. Contrary to domestic violence, other cases regarding women’s health and education get more support from the parliament members and are taken more seriously.
Al-Damluji mentions that some women in parliament, specifically those who are part of religious parties, do not believe in feminism and do not want to talk about it, considering it a sensitive topic. Unfortunately, these women represent the majority of female members of parliament, making discussing such a topic extra challenging. She followed by discussing a personal experience, when she ran for head of parliament in 2009. While some men supported her and stood by her side, the majority of male members of parliament, including her own political bloc, stood against her. They did not take her candidacy seriously, which forced her to withdraw. 
She also touched upon topics related to social media, and how this has become a platform to intensively fight successful women by insulting them, sabotaging their honor, or criticizing their faces and looks. She states that men who accomplish similar success do not face any of these troubles. The latter presents the indication that, socially, women are under more pressure in comparison to men.
The final topic discussed was the quota act, which Iraq implemented to guarantee a specific number of seats for women in parliament, and is considered unfair by many men. Al-Damluji confirms that without the quota act, women would not have any chance to become a member of parliament. Indeed, it seems the quota act is the only way to avoid a male-only parliament. She concludes by saying that the only way to improve these circumstances is if the government encourages and supports women, who after all, constitute half of society.

Summarized and Translated by: Lubna Ghazi

Dr. Akeel Abbas' interview with 'Nawa Radio Station'

In this interview, speakers discuss the history and chronology of women’s rights in Iraq.
One event that can be considered a starting point of encouraging women’s rights in Iraq, is in 1910 by the famous Iraqi poet Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi. At that time he wrote an article in the newspaper ‘Al-Moayed’, under the title “Woman & her defense”. The article became a motivation for any woman to get out of the house and take off her veil, revealing her face. The article led to a huge outcry in Baghdad, regarding it as a call for breaking Islamic and Arab values. As a result, Al-Zahawi was fired from the law school where he worked.
Poets such as Al-Zahawi, but also Maruf Al-Rasafi and others, called for enlightenment and liberation. The liberation they were calling for consisted of three things: 1. Removal of the veil 2. For women to attend school and get educated 3. For women to live beyond the boundaries of their houses.
Following the above, another figure, Husain al-Rahal, took the debate of women’s rights even further. His father was an officer in the Ottoman army and as such al-Rahal had lived in Germany for years. Living abroad aided Al-Rahal with an adaptable and open mentality. He opened the first Marxicist cell (GROUP) in Iraq. Additionally, he called for particular human rights with regards to women that were not proposed before: he asked for the financial independence of women. It would allow them to become active, productive and participatory individuals of society. In Iraq, this issue had neither been discussed nor considered before.
These three figures were part of a first generation of people who encouraged and supported women’s rights, and had few supporters. More so, the first generation of women’s rights supporters are usually men, as they have more access to power within society and are allowed an education. At that time, women nonetheless actively participated in this movement, although the majority of them did not know what their rights were, or how to ask for them. It can be argued that the first generation of women’s rights supporters often had a small group of believers and a large group of opponents. This dynamic is not limited to Iraq, but also applies to other communities around the world: some of which include Western and Middle Eastern communities such as in Lebanon, Syria, the United States, and many others.
The ideas that were held by these three men caused various conflicts. After the establishment of the Iraqi government, the encouragement of female education led to a division of Iraqi society into two groups. Back in the twenties, the Iraqi government opened around 36-38 schools which were only for men. The government’s call to let women join these schools resulted in a tremendous disturbance. Some civilians would attack women with stones if they saw them going to school. Although the majority of people, specifically religious figures, were against the education of women, support was still prevalent in the country. The conflicts between the opposing sides continued within the twentieth century and ended with a victory for women and their supporters. Consequently, it allowed for many women like Amina Al-Rahal, who was the first woman to become a lawyer and drive a car in the thirties, to emerge.
Finally, multiple associations emerged, particularly in Baghdad, to support women’s rights. This coincided with many Iraqi men travelling to Syria and Lebanon and marrying Lebanese and Syrian women, who were more open minded and liberal than Iraqi women. These marriages encouraged men to accept the idea of women’s rights, freedom, and individuality. At that time, Iraq needed teachers, doctors, and other employees from Syria and Lebanon to work in the country. The arrival of these employees further altered the mindset of Iraqi Society.

Credit: Summarized and translated Lubna Ghazi. 

Dr. Choman Hardi talks to Voice Of America about the challenges women face in the Kurdish community

Dr. Choman Hardi was invited to Voice of America to discuss the challenges women face within the Kurdish community. Kurdish women have advanced to the global stage and have become the symbols of patience, sacrifice, and resistance. They have been the muse for global fashion designers and have inspired other women to pick up a rifle and fight alongside men.
In Kurdish history there has been an unbreakable cycle of Kurdish revolutions. The participation and impact of women has relied on the male leader’s personal belief system. If the male leader supported gender equality, he’d let Kurdish women participate and diminish the conservative and unequal patriarchal system. If he didn’t, then the system would remain patrilineal. History has proven that the more women are involved in politics the more it changes. The effectiveness of women in politics has been overlooked by men in power.
Dr. Choman conducted research on the 1976-1991 revolution in Kurdistan. She made the observation that Kurdish revolutions have always had a specific aim, not intertwined with any other cause (such as gender equality etc.) The cultural values of Kurdistan has also caused many topics to be ignored or to be put on hold. She pointed out that we need to confront the issues that women face with a feminist revolution. However, as she elaborates, this cannot be done through violence but rather through education. Indeed, providing resources is a crucial part of the latter. Other factors she argues to be essential to this are educating the public and pushing boundaries and definitions. We need a holistic approach for this revolution, which means involving all parts of society.
She went on to explain how feminism is generally separated into two sections, the activist wing and the theoretical wing. In Kurdistan, there are lots of organizations working in the activist wing and, needless to say, making immense progress. However, Kurdish feminism is significantly lacking in the theoretical aspect. The theoretical wing was introduced by second wave feminists and it consists of conducting research, reviewing history, and redefining social norms.
The study of gender in universities is relatively new to the Kurdish community. This was a revolutionary decision made by the ministry of education as of August, 2018. Due to recent political crises, women and gender education have been marginalized. There’s a detachment amongst women’s organizations, as they prioritise their political values over their work towards an equal society. Another problem is that they are bound and limited by their funds. Some political events cause the funding targets to be altered, (such as the recent ISIS crisis encouraging funders to give money to projects that aid IDPS instead.) As important as these issues are, they aren’t the focus of women’s organizations.
Gender is an inclusive umbrella term for the whole gender spectrum. Gender studies focuses on all the groups, whereas feminism focuses on the contrast of rights and discrimination between these groups. The origin of patriarchy is unknown, what is known is that before written history, men would take control out of women's hands by bending the truths in the name of religion, myth, and science. The system remains, as everything has been done in order to protect its maintenance and stability.
Men can implement change easily. Many of them do not support patriarchal values. Yet, they are entirely passive towards those who are. This is another way of contributing to patriarchy. For instance, they themselves don’t beat women but they would not interfere either if others do. They do not make sexist jokes but giggle when others do. CGDS has various projects to tackle this issue; mainly through re-education.

Dr. Choman Hardi talks to Voice Of America about gender inequality

The podcast began by discussing the differences between gender equality and gender superiority. The latter tends to be a common misconception among the community. The promotion of equality is often perceived by society as the replacement of the patriarchal system with a matriarchal one. In reality, the goal is not to achieve superior roles for women but to provide equal opportunity. Nonetheless, the patriarchal system negatively affects men as it does women. For instance, men are expected to provide for their family (as symbolized in marriage ceremonies where the groom is required to buy a certain amount of gold for the bride). Another example is that it is not socially acceptable for men to show emotions other than anger. The discussion emphasized the importance of overcoming a patriarchal society and giving the other half of the community a voice.
Dr. Hardi stated that the feminist movement in Kurdistan is currently facing difficulties, being in a system that is often in opposition to women. The very structure of society, with the inclusion of all its aspects, must change in order to make a difference. She has been working in Kurdistan for the past five years, during which immense progress has been made in regards to gender equality. This progress is often used as an excuse by conservative and/or religious parties to limit further development.
Dr. Hardi explains that inequality exists due to a lack of alternative perspectives. Men can defend equality and be feminists but they can never fully understand the struggles women face. Women are denied the opportunities and respect men are handed, making it difficult to communicate about these issues. The number of female representatives in the government is directly proportional to the difference they can make. So far, women have always been the minority in the government, but if we want to alter the system, more forces are essential. It is important not to allow new forms of patriarchy to surface due to technological advances and the accessibility to social media platforms. Prior to the 1991 revolutions, laws were not as in favor of equality as they are now.
The role of NGOs in Kurdistan is another misconception she discusses. Their purpose is to fill the gaps that the government left, which does not imply that they are substitutes for governmental action. For example, women who face violence can seek shelter and aid. However, legal protection and security, as well as job opportunities in order to develop financial independence, are supposed to be the government’s job. Unfortunately, violence against women has been normalized by some parts of society. It has even encouraged murder as a demonstration of masculinity and defense of a male’s honor.
Historically, there have been examples of the marginalization of women within Kurdish literature: the poet Qani’ had a sister who often surpassed him artistically. Dr. Hardi elaborates on this occurrence. Qani’s family provided superior attention to him as opposed to his sister, giving him pens and notebooks in which he could write poems, whereas his sister would write the poems on the scraps of paper that he’d thrown away. Only one of his sister’s poems survived, which is the one she had woven into a carpet with her own hands. Dr. Hardi concludes the interview by restating the importance of art in communicating the emotional factors of gender inequality. Although the hardships are unexplainable, through art we can begin to understand the reasons behind why these movements exist.

Summarized and translated by: Naivan Sartip AbdulRahman

Dr. Lynn Rose interviews Dr. Edith Szanto about women and Islam

Dr. Edith Szanto, who received a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, served as assistant professor at AUIS for several years. She developed and taught, as part of the gender minor, an upper-level course on women and Islam. Dr. Szanto has now joined the Religious Studies Department at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, an R-1 Institution. Her research interests, in addition to gender and Islam, include Twelver Shi'ism, Sufism, religious minorities in the Middle East, and the anthropology of Islam.
Dr. Szanto begins by responding to the equation of Islam with the suppression of women. The burka and driving restrictions and so-called “honor” killings might be the first images that come to mind about Muslim women. She goes on to talk about her experience with her course on women and Islam, and then describes the situation of women and gender in the time of the birth of the Prophet Muhammed in the sixth century CE. She continues by pointing out how the Qur’an presents women, the historical records of ordinary women in early Islam, and the Sunni-Shi’a split in terms of gender. Next, she talks about women in the spread of Islam in the centuries following Mohammed’s death, and specifically about the effects of urbanization in contrast to the desert tribal culture in which Islam was born. After naming some of the most interesting areas of gender research in Islam currently, Dr. Szanto highlights her own research in terms of gender.

Dr. Akeel Abbas interview with Ruaa Khaala

Dr. Akeel Abbas interviews Ms. Ruaa Khalaf, feminist and activist. Having finished a Bachelor's degree in Cooling System Technology, in addition to pursuing another degree in Business Administration (Financial Accounting), Ruaa sees herself as an independent and strong woman. She believes there are no specific jobs for women or men. Men can work the same jobs as women, and vice versa.
She believes that women are underrepresented in Parliament, in the wider government, and even in international NGOs. Most decision making goes through men. In Iraq women are seen as fragile, weak and in need of protection. Even as an activist and advocate for women rights, she faced extreme difficulty getting suggested laws regarding women passed through the parliament.
Furthermore, she points out that even with the 25% quota for female representation in parliament, they are affiliated and involved with political parties. This has far reaching implications, such as these parties constituting a 90% male decision making ratio. Thus, women in parliament have no real power to support other women in society. She recounts a particular case where a female member of parliament once asked to have the law, obliging a husband to get consent in court from his first wife to be able to marry a second wife, lifted.
As an activist Khalaf has been participating in demonstrations since 2015, including the protests of the 1st of October 2019, in Tahrir Square, Baghdad. The protests of October were predominantly attended by men. She mentioned that only 7 girls were present at the beginning of the protests. She nonetheless played a prominent role in logistical support during the demonstrations: by fundraising, gathering people, and helping and guiding injured people in the medical units. She also points out that not many women stayed the night at demonstration sites, only few and all of them were old, not young; the mother of a martyr or related to someone in the protests or the bakers. Women never faced harassment in the demonstrations because the general atmosphere never allowed that, thus none dared. Men treated women as equal and as sisters. The participation of women in the protests advanced the cause of keeping the demonstrations peaceful.
She concludes by stating that the participation of women in the demonstrations was a turning point for many women in Baghdad, and across Iraq. People began looking up to Khalaf, respecting her for her participation and role. Various marches began through being led by women.

Dr. Choman Hardi’s Interview about Gender Based Violence with Nawa Radio Station

Dw’a’s murder in 2007 sent a ripple of shock through society, and at the moment of the interview the case is still under investigation. The killing of women continues to remain hidden, and the government and shelters fail to decrease the abundance of this issue. While 30% of government committees in Kurdistan are made up of women, women are deliberately placed in roles that do not involve the military and law-making. As such, having women present in 30% of government committees is something only to celebrate in theory, as the reality in regards to GBV barely changes. Additionally, the common belief amongst KRG officials is that as women are victims of GBV, they must therefore be the ones who are defending the issue. In reality however, equality and eliminating violence is everyone’s responsibility, regardless of gender.
The killing of a woman is so normalized by the media, language, and society, that it has become invisible to the eye. Media plays a huge role in this normalization, since they influence how people think. When a woman is killed, the news headlines are phrased in a passive tone, words like ‘another woman’ are used. The patriarchal system resurfaces itself in different ways through media, like unrealistic representation of women’s sexuality in movies that greatly influences teenagers. Social media allows footage of women to be shot and published with little consequences, and more often than not these actions result in the death of the woman. This is not to say that the media is responsible, but rather that the question of who owns the media, is part of the issues surrounding these murders. 
In August of 2019 the Ministry of Higher Education decided that Gender Studies should be offered in more universities in the KRI through gender centers, in an attempt to tackle these deep-rooted problems. At the time of the interview, this decision has not been implemented yet. More so, the ministry has done little to prepare educators, such as offering courses and training to educate an academic staff to lead the gender center. In the meantime, CGDS has received grants which have been utilized for media monitoring, resource translations, and textbook reviews for primary and secondary education. In addition, CGDS has started translating gender related resources and textbooks into Kurdish, which would allow the new Gender Studies centers to have material to be used in a curriculum.
Honor killings remain a cultural phenomenon due to the lack of serious consequences such as arrests, punishments, and imprisonments. The more women are killed, the easier it becomes to get away with it. There is an evident bias and prejudice amongst officials like police officers, judges, and lawyers with regards to this issue. People who are employed in women’s shelters don’t believe in the equality of genders, and their beliefs are not altered by their jobs. They were brought up in a patriarchal world, thus they only further enhance the cycle of “that is just how it is”.
This brings us to the question of what makes women voiceless? The main reasons are (1) the detachment of women’s rights organizations to the rest of the women in this society, (2) ineffective interactions between these organizations and the government, and (3) people in power taking advantage of women, including sexually. Many cases of prostitution have been dismissed to protect governmental figures who were initially involved in the case. These officials don’t believe in women’s rights generally, and in feminism in particular.
There is a common misconception that feminism is western, but in reality, feminism is divided into two wings: the activist wing and the theory wing. Activists have always existed within the Kurdish culture, however it is the theoretical wing such as research and resources, that we lack. There needs to be a stronger connection between these two wings in order for us to move forward with gender related issues.
Summarized and Translated by: Naivan Sartip

Dr. Lynn Rose and Shko Shwan talk to XFM about feminism

The main theme of this podcast is feminism: how feminism should be defined, its misconceptions, and how it has initially been perceived within society. The guests on the podcast are: Dr. Andrea Zittlau, teacher at the University of Rostock, Germany, mr. Rezhyar Fakhir, an advocate for peace who has held several workshops through the Christian Peacemaker Team, Dr. Lynn Rose, who is a professor of the Social Sciences at AUIS and Deputy Director at CGDS, and mr. Shko Shwan who began as CGDS’ co-ordinator and is currently the project manager for the EU project.
The interview starts with discussing how feminism should be defined, as it gets highly misunderstood by the majority of both men and women in society. Dr. Lynn Rose argues that feminism could be defined in several ways, thus there is not a singular definition that one can refer back to. Kosha Hussein mentions that men in Kurdistan have a lot of privileges that women do not have. Unfortunately, men are not even aware of these privileges, as they fail to perceive the situation from a woman's perspective.
Mr. Shko Shwan explains that misconceptions about feminism are common in many cultures. Some of these misconceptions include people believing that feminism is specifically a women’s issue. Consequently, in certain cultures, when males actually speak up for women’s rights, they are ostracized. They are also thought of as individuals who help women in overruling men. Mr. Rezhyar Fakhir, a social activist, says that when talking about feminism there should be no regard to where its ideas originate. Feminism should be perceived as a global ideology, where there are unified goals and no distinctions. He adds that the process of supporting women should be based on a partnership, where women and men collaborate to dispose of male dominance. Dr. Andrea Zittaleu specifies how feminism is perceived as an idea that is no longer relevant to the 21st century. She elaborates on how her students have told her that in this era everyone is actually equal, and that there is a lack in understanding what equality means. It is this lack of understanding and awareness of what feminism is that gives birth to various misconceptions. 
The second and final topic covered in the interview is the relationship between men and feminism. Mr. Shko argues that the equality feminism fights for can be expressed in various ways. For instance, a man splitting the lunch or dinner bill between him and his date, is one of the ways of expressing equality. Drawing from the Iraqi culture, men are pressured to pay for their wives’, fiances’, or girlfriends’ expenses. Society would consider these men inadequate were they to do otherwise. The behaviors and beliefs of both genders generally arise from the culture they find themselves in. In order to change this mindset, one needs to gradually amend the culture. He concludes by stating that change comes progressively, and with time. We as individuals have the power to shape culture, rather than letting culture shape us.

Summarized and Translated by: Lubna Ghazi

Discussing current day abortion by Ms. Goshan Mohammad

This podcast and discussion on abortion is ignited by the 99 year sentence that was issued on this matter, in the State of Alabama, United States. The pro-life/pro-choice conflict has been going on all over the world since this law was issued. Should men who are not directly affected by this law, be involved in this conversation? The question of autonomy is relevant here, as middle aged white male politicians are the ones who got to vote on this law on women. Most men do not want their tax money to go to abortion as they do not see it as a necessity. The majority of the disagreements stem from the uncertainty regarding the question when a fetus actually comes to life? Some answer this question by stating that life starts from the moment of the first heartbeat, which is at 6 weeks. However, this raises another question, which is whether the essence of life is the equivalent of a heartbeat?
The main justification provided in defence of this law is the fact that killing is a crime. However forcing pregnancy on a woman does not seem to be considered a crime. In an article, Richard Cherwitz refers to pro-life ideologies as anti-woman laws, arguing that the radical laws of forced pregnancy are not actually pro-life. Science has yet to prove that a fetus has emotions or can endure physical pain. In fact, humans are not fully developed even after birth. The issue is the concentrated active interest in potential life instead of the woman’s current life. It is also crucial to remember that women don’t have abortions because they enjoy “killing babies,” rather the main reasons for an abortion are: (1) uncertainty in economic support and (2) the relationship the mother has with the father of the baby.
The State of New York banned third trimester abortions (except when necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman) because abortion is often looked upon as a trivial choice carried out by mothers who are perceived as fickle minded people. A survey conducted in 2015 proves otherwise, stating that only 1.3% of abortions were conducted before 21 weeks of the pregnancy, 7.6% within the 14th to the 20th week, and 91.1% before 13 weeks. These figures prove that women do not purposely get late abortions. The reasons that women may not get early abortions are because: (1) abortions are not allowed in their state, therefore they have to travel or seek unsafe approaches, or (2) they cannot afford it. The contradiction is that women get late abortions due to their restriction or lack of accessibility to get them early on.
This episode also tackled certain pro-life arguments, such as those that develop from religious beliefs. As far as the Qur’an and Bible go, there is no explicit reference to abortion. As such it constitutes an impossibility to derive an absolute rule against it. A common counter-argument to the latter is that the principle of life is God-given and sacred. Some argue that abortion is the act of destroying God’s gift, which brings us back to the question of, how should life actually be defined?
Another point that came up was the general beliefs people have regarding contraception. The argument that was put forward, was that it is healthier to be aware of the ways in which unwanted pregnancy can be prevented, as opposed to depending on abortion to solve the unwanted pregnancy problem. Generally, people think as long as abortion is easily accessible and is an option, contraception shouldn’t be taken into serious consideration. However, those who think this way are not aware of the painful processes of abortion. Thus, priority should be given to educate people on the importance and different types of contraception, rather than imposing a ban on abortion.
additionally, restricting abortion will only make the process more unsafe and put women at risk. The World Health Organization states that 25 million unsafe abortions are conducted annually, which constitutes 45% of all abortions. 97% of these unsafe abortions were carried out in developing countries, which is generally where laws are more restrictive. Although Iraq is not devoid of laws against abortions, it is certainly more open to exceptions as individual committees are formed for each case. Abortion in Iraq is more prevalent than we might think. 12.6% of Iraqi women claim to have had abortions, the highest numbers within the Arab population, then the Turkmen, and then the Kurds. Even religious countries such as Iran allow for exceptions in cases of illnesses. Notably, Turkey offers abortions for free in the first month of pregnancy.
All this leads us to conclude that laws and restrictions can’t be designed and put into place by a small number of male politicians that don’t represent the general public. More formally, a law cannot be forced on a choice that should be made by women; without women having a say in it.

Summarized and Translated by: Naivan Sartip

COVID-19 and its Impact on the Differently-Abled Community

On Saturday May 23rd, 2020, Dr. Lynn Rose, CGDS Deputy Director, participated in the webinar “COVID-19 and its Impacts on the differently-abled community.” The webinar was sponsored and produced by WDRPA, the World Disability and Rehabilitation Professionals Association, with which CGDS partnered for the event. CGDS has been funded since 2018 by an EU grant that focuses on international education, particularly, in the MENA region, about issues of gender inequity. We take an intersectional approach, including issues of people with disabilities and other minorities in our investigations. Thanks go also to Mr. Paywand Ata of Horizon Relief and to Mr. Mahdi Abdullah of the Handicapped Union of Kurdistan, for providing current information about people with disabilities in the KRG during the pandemic.
In the webinar, Dr. Lynn addressed the question of the role of rehabilitation professionals to assist people with disabilities during the pandemic. She said: “We hear the phrase ‘We’re all in this together,’ but are we?” Especially in the global south, there are many ways in which COVID-19 aggravates the disadvantages of people with disabilities. Rehab professionals therefore need to continue to educate themselves about both the universal and local impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities. The universal issues include the fact that many people with disabilities have underlying health conditions which puts them at risk, but also that many of them rely on rehab professionals for assistance and communication, thus making social distancing difficult. Other universal impacts are the increase of domestic violence, issues of homeschooling, difficulties in getting food, the lack of technological access, and neurotypical online cultures. The NGO Horizon Relief and the Handicapped Union of Kurdistan have reported on some of the problems specific to people with disabilities in Iraqi Kurdistan. The difficulty of getting food and medical supplies under the curfew was compounded here because of an inaccessible infrastructure. People with psychosocial disabilities faced a particular hard time with the strict isolation. Violence increased against disabled women and girls. There was a total lockdown in Iraqi Kurdistan for an extensive period of time. And while it really helped with preventing the spread of the disease—we have relatively few cases of COVID-19 here now—it was put into effect suddenly, and with little to no respite care for caregivers. The economic fallout here was pronounced, and still is.
Many people with disabilities receive small government salaries, but this is an oil economy, and no government salaries have been paid since January. If rehab professionals are able to educate themselves and the community, they can raise our awareness about disability. Not only during the pandemic, but permanently. Dr. Lynn concluded by saying: “Maybe we can make  the phrase ‘we’re all in it together’ real, and maybe we can all be in it together after the pandemic ends.” Also participating in the webinar were WDRPA country representatives from the US, Australia, India, Poland, and the Netherlands. Topics ranged from accommodation and accessibility during the pandemic, to the roles and responsibilities of rehabilitation professionals. There were 483 audience members.

Women in Classical and Modern Kurdish Literature

In this episode, Dr. Choman Hardi, Director of the Center for Gender and Development Studies, is interviewed by Sohaib Faruq, as part of the “Chama'' Series. Here the focus is on Women in Kurdish Literature and Poetry, and how the role of women in the latter has been reflected in society.

The presenter asked Dr. Hardi, “why do large numbers of women continue to get killed on a regular basis despite the fact that there is so much love and affection expressed towards women in poetry?” She explains that these poems are somewhat an explanation as to why women are perceived the way that they are. Women are reduced to their bodies and that is all they are portrayed to be. The women in the poems are stripped of other actual abilities that they may have.
The program further discussed how there are so many poems and songs that encourage acts that are in fact against equality and individual rights. This includes songs that objectify and sexualize underage girls, all of which have become normalized.
The reduction of women to their bodies is as common in the west as it is in Kurdistan. Dr. Hardi points out that a reason for the latter is also a lack of the awareness of what is actually fair. It is widespread that the Kurdish language does contain negative connotations towards women. For instance, if one was to compliment a woman they would call her “ner/ masculine”; having “ strong masculine” like characteristics. However, if the opposite was to occur, if you complimented a man with female characteristics, he would get offended.

Dr. Akeel Abbas Interviews Hana Edwar

In this episode, Akeel Abbas, Co- Manager of CGDS, interviews Hana Edwar. Hana Edwar is a prominent Iraqi women’s rights advocate, and one of Iraq's pioneers in feminism. During her senior year at the College of Law in Basra she formed various connections with some female activists and organizations. It is here that she got her interest, and involved herself in the pursuit of women’s equality.
Edwar emphasizes that equality for women will help the development of the community and society at large. Therefore, the topic is essential and requires not only attention from women’s activists, but from anyone involved in the community. 
She explains how her childhood influenced her current path. She grew up in a moderately religious family, and since her early childhood, witnessed her father do some housework and help her mother. Additionally, she and both her sisters and brothers had to do chores and help. There was no discrimination based on sex, except in a few rare occasions. In her home in Basra, boys and girls used to play together without any distinction.
With the rise of the 1958 revolution, progressive thinking and women rights, many doors were opened for people to express their ideas and opinions. Social improvement and women's involvement in society became more apparent.

Women associations and organizations constituted an important role in drafting the constitution to include the 25% percent female quota representation in the parliament. They also had a significant role in rejecting Article 41 of the Iraqi constitution, which contradicts Article 14 stating that all Iraqis are equal to the law regardless of their sex, ethnicity, belief, or religion. However, the parliament decided to keep the Article.
Overall, Edwar feels that there is an improvement in society with regards to feminism and women's rights. Unfortunately, certain obstacles are still evident and present barriers. For instance, the current government and parliament, in contrast to the former, have yet to pass the law for protection against domestic abuse.?

On the 8th of March 2019, Dr. Choman Hardi, director of CGDS, was hosted on the “Didari Mn” program by “KNN TV”. She was invited to discuss the significance of Women’s Day, why it’s recognition has an impact, and the role of women in the community.
Dr. Hardi discusses that on this day, and during ‘16 Days of Activism’, activists and women working in NGOs have the opportunity to portray to society the work they have done for the community. The commemoration of 8th of March illustrates why women have had to fight for their rights.
The interviewer asked Dr. Hardi, “What state are women in, or how are their circumstances currently?” She answered that, “There has been progress, however, it is not the progress we want because there is still a lot of inequality that occurs. I was previously at Kurdsat TV with various skilled women, and they were playing instruments on live TV which probably would not have been allowed 20 years ago. Hence, there is a visible progression.”
The concept of women in the media was also discussed on the programme, specifically, how women’s news is usually reduced to “hot news” and is not given its fair weight in media outlets. Dr. Hardi further elaborates on how women are at times kept within the confines of a number of stereotypes. For instance, “they are either portrayed as victims of the anfal, a victim in general, or someone who wears black to mourn their losses.” Media gives men the chance to have a platform to speak their minds and give their opinions, whereas the same can not be said for women.
Another topic that arose was women in politics. While the quota system has enabled women to part-take in politics, there are still various obstacles that arise when women enter politics. Firstly, it has allegedly been said that certain women are chosen to enter parliament exactly because they are known for not discussing women’s rights. Secondly, at times decision making happens without the consideration or input of female MPs. Dr. Hardi adds that society has institutionalized and aided men in attaining leadership roles.
Dr. Hardi concludes her interview by discussing how a reduction in gender based violence can be achieved and how certain economic and other crises affect women. She mentions implementing the following examples as ways to decrement GBV: a reform in the education system that will change how new generations are raised; new interpretations of religion that are parallel with our age; new laws that will enforce women’s rights; and the recognition of social responsibility from the media and the people whom are given a platform and power to use their voices.

Dr.Choman Hardi’s Interview with Dengi Geli Kurdistan

On March 11th, 2020, Dr. Choman Hardi, Director of CGDS, had an interview with “Dengi Geli Kurdistan” for their program named “CV”. The interview focused on the understanding of gender, and how gender roles and stereotypes influence individuals within society. Dr. Hardi addressed the stigmatization of the concept of gender, and its impact within the Kurdish community.
The program begins with considering how children are raised within the Kurdish society. Put differently, how society’s influence impacts and develops individuals. As children grow up, they are expected to behave in a certain way due to their biological sex. As Dr. Hardi recounts her experience as a teenager, she explains how stereotypes have presented barriers for her and other girls. Her escape to these barriers, and pursuit of freedom, was through reading novels by feminist writers such as Oriana Fallaci and others.
The presenter asked Dr. Hardi, “As one grows up, we ask and question ourselves about who we are? Why am I a female? Why am I a male?” In her answer she stated “I can not control whether I am a male or a female, and I have no issue with being a woman. Rather my questions are: why are there obstacles for me, just because I am a woman. I have had to fight to see my friends, to participate in art classes. There are still situations where I am treated differently because I am a woman.”
As the interview progresses, Dr. Hardi talks about her experiences with holding Focus Group Discussions in areas of Kurdistan that are not as exposed to the “Gender argument and theory.” She mentions that there have been times where she feels like she has left a battlefield after these discussions, because certain people are not willing to listen to the conversation pertaining to what gender is. However there are others that listen and want to understand. It is this understanding that develops society. The person does not have to concur with the main argument but as long as they are willing to perceive it, there is room for growth.
The interview concluded with pointing out how the concept of gender has been misconstrued within Kurdish society. Media, religion, and other institutions of society have taken part in stigmatizing what the concept actually is. At times, it is this misconstrued understanding of the concept that is used to keep patriarchy in place, to maintain the stereotypes and gender roles that have been imposed.
Last modified: Saturday, 24 December 2022, 10:32 AM