In the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq (KRG), Ranya and the nearby town of Qaladiza are quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places for women in the Middle East. This year, a surge in violence against women is cause for great concern, with 18 cases reported in the Bishder and Betwen regions in January and February 2012.
According to data provided by Ranya General Hospital and the KRG Directorate of Violence Against Women, five cases of murder, eight cases of self-immolation, and five cases of physical (domestic) violence have been reported in the first two months of 2012.
By contrast, in the same region a total of 44 cases of violence against women were reported in all of 2011, with the KRG Directorate of Violence Against Women officially reporting three murders, 12 acts of physical (domestic) violence, and 29 self-immolation cases. The total number of women that died in 2011 as a result of the violence is unknown because government data is not available.
If action is not taken immediately, violence against women in this region is due to triple in 2012. The KRG must declare a state of emergency in Ranya and Qaladiza, and police and security forces must formally investigate all cases of violence against women. The judicial system must prosecute offenders, pursuant to KRG Law No. 8, the Law Against Domestic Violence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The law was passed in June 2011 but has yet to be fully implemented.
Finally, the KRG Ministry of Human Rights, leagues of women, and other community and international organizations must join forces to increase awareness of the issue and implement a serious plan to stop the violence against women in Ranya and Qaladiza.
Lack of Planning or Action Puts Women at Risk
While some action has been taken to address the violence against women in Ranya and Qaladiza, activities to date have been more window dressing than actual plans of action. Leagues of women, KRG ministries of Human Rights and Social Affairs, and large organizations hold meetings and discuss plans to end the violence against women but do not contribute enough to stopping it all together.
Despite their best intentions, these groups are not taking serious action to protect women. None of these groups have opened a shelter in the region to offer women a safe haven from the violence. The government does not declare a state of emergency in Ranya and Qaladiza, despite the fact that violence against women is due to triple in 2012. Little has been done to seriously expand campaigns to increase awareness and motivate the entire community to work toward stopping the violence.
Moreover, police and security forces have not been activated to stop the killings, law enforcement does not properly investigate criminal cases that are reported, and the judicial system does not prosecute offenders.
As a result of these inadequate measures, violence against women in this region is increasing at an alarming rate. Murder, self-immolation, and forced marriages are common in Ranya and Qaladiza.
Thousands of infant girls, still in their cradles, have been engaged or exchanged with other girls for members of one another’s families. Data from the KRG Ministry of Human Rights documents 3,736 such cases.
The FGM rate in the Ranya region is 94 percent, according to a report by Wadi that was forwarded to the KRG Parliament in 2008. The report found that of 2,317 girls evaluated, 2,184 had been circumcised.
Women in this region are the targets of physical, psychological, and social violence that grossly violates their human rights.
Murder, Attempted Murder Cases
Five cases of murder or attempted murder of women have been reported in the first two months of 2012. Four women have died and one woman remains in hospital intensive care, having undergone two operations as a result of her injuries.
Of the five cases, this report provides background on only two of the victims. There was not enough information on the three remaining victims to report the facts of their cases.
• Victim #1
Sakar Hamadamin, 28 of Sarkapkan sub-district of Ranya, was killed on February 4, 2012. Her family claims that the killer is unknown.
• Victim #2
Kaban Kamal Omer, 23, of Zharawa, was shot by her husband, Nasih Hussein, on February 9, 2012. Nasih claimed that he was cleaning his weapon when it went off, shooting his wife. At the time of preparing this report, Kaban was in hospital intensive care and remained in serious condition. She has had several operations as a result of her injuries.
• Victim #3
Sakar Omer Aziz, 22, of Ranya district was killed by her husband on February 11, 2012.
Murdered Women of Ranya
In February, Wadi team members from Sulaimani and Ranya set out to meet with families of three victims killed since January 2012. The team also went to meet with the family of one of the men accused of murdering his wife. They visited four homes in one day, but only two of the four families would speak openly and on the record about the cases. These stories are included below.
Sakar Hamadamin’s Story
In February, the Wadi team visited the home of murder victim Sakar Hamadamin, 28, a schoolteacher from the Sarkapan sub-district of Ranya. Wadi investigators were following up on a rumor that her father killed her. Zuleikha, Sakar’s mother, gave an account of the murder to the organization’s team members when they visited her home.
“It was 10 at night. Sakar was busy with her camera, as it had snowed that day. She had intended to take some photos on her way to her work in Plingan village the next day and at school.” Zuleikha said. “I fell asleep after 10 p.m.; Sakar, too. We shared a room. At midnight, I jumped by the bang of firing from a rifle. Though there was no electricity, I could see a man I did not recognize, with his back toward me walking away. I dared not chase him.”
Sakar had a boyfriend that had asked for her hand in marriage several times, but Sakar’s father was reluctant to agree to the union. Soon after he agreed to their marriage, Sakar was shot.
Close family relatives referred to a telephone call that Sakar’s father received as the cause of her killing. He allegedly received a telephone call from a man in the same tribe stating, “’Hey Hamadamin, you are the only man in the tribe who is controlled by his daughter. Have you forgotten the traditions of our family? How could you listen to your daughter and agree to her marriage to that boy?’”
“After this phone call, Sakar’s father had decided to kill his daughter,” the relative said. “And that same night he did.”
According to a family relative, “on the night when Sakar was shot, she had been able before passing away to tell her mother “Ma, it was dad but for God’s sake do not confront him with anything.’’
The family relative also said that Sakar’s father allegedly telephoned one of his relatives after Sakar had been injured and asked how his wife Zuleikha and his daughter were. He reportedly said, “please, how is Zuleikha, not tired?,” adding, “I have pledged to sacrifice three bulls may God keep Sakar safe and [that she will] recover.”
Information gathered for this report stated that Sakar’s father shot her on the night of February 4, 2012. She died two days after the shooting in the hospital. Sakar’s mother and sister-in-law said that the person who murdered Sakar must have been experienced and aware of Sakar’s sleeping place. The person who killed Sakar entered the house at midnight, turned off the power, and shot her while she slept, they said.
Sakar Omer’s Story
Wadi team members also visited the parents and sister of one of the murder victims, Sakar Omer Aziz, 22, in their family home in Ranya. Sakar’s younger sister, Sawen Omer Aziz, 17, recounted the story of finding her sister dead.
Sawan said she was the first witness to enter her sister’s house. “I was at my grandmother’s [house] that day,” she said. “I was back at around 5 p.m. I told my mother that I would visit my sister Sakar. I knocked at the gate three to four times but nobody opened. I phoned my sister a couple of times but there was no answer.”
Sawen added, “I looked through the gate. A window was open. I knew they were home but I thought she was having a nap.”
Sawen entered the house through the neighbor’s gate. She said, “Entering the hall, I couldn’t recognize my brother-in-law. The house was like a slaughter house.”
Sawen explained that Sakar had two gun shot wounds and that her husband had shot himself in the neck. The bullet penetrated his head and blew his right eye out.
Sakar was only 22. She had attended primary school through class four. She was a housewife. Her husband, Pishder, was a peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) based in Ranya. The couple had a five-month old baby boy.
Sawen added, “I telephoned my father. I was so frightened and was talking so quickly that my father could not understand me. My brother-in-law was still alive and was able to talk. He was telling me to keep silent and not to inform anyone.”
Sawen indicated that nobody was aware of what had taken place until her father arrived and they removed Sakar’s body from the house. She returned to the house to help the husband, Pishder, and to attend to the couple’s baby boy. Sawen said, “The child was in the cradle, which was covered with blood. I was afraid that the child was also shot.” When she saw that the child was unharmed, she lifted him from the cradle. She then telephoned the security police, known as Asayish.
According to Sakar’s father, Omer Aziz, his daughter did not have problems until she was married. He claimed that the couple’s marital problems stemmed from her husband’s addiction to alcohol. Omer said Sakar’s husband, “beat Sakar and hit her with a knife two months ago. Whenever he had beaten Sakar, he cut his own wrist with a cutter. He was always drunk and unconscious.”
The Wadi team visited Pishder’s family to confirm facts of the case, but they were not willing to speak about the issue.
Each of the self-immolation victims suffered severe burns of high degrees, making the collection of evidence directly from the victims impossible. Relatives of four of the six victims have claimed that these women caught fire and burned while filling heaters with kerosene. At the time of finalizing this report, there was not enough information available on two of the cases to report on the cause of their burns.
• Gashbeen Jabar Nabi, 13, Rapareen Quarter, Ranya, was burned on January 15, 2012. Gashbeen’s family claimed that she was burned when filling a heater with kerosene; however, the cause of the burning remains suspicious.
• Sazan Omer Kareem, 27, Hajiawa sub-district, was burned on January 15, 2012. Details of the case are unknown.
• Beri Mohammad Mullah, 19, from Sangasar sub-district, was burned on January 26, 2012. Details of the case are unknown.
• Shiba Hussein Qadir, 19, Ranya district, Shahidan Quarter, was burned on January 31, 2012. Details of the case are unknown.
• Arazo Salih Rasool, 17, suffered burns on 50 percent of her body, allegedly from a kerosene pump cooker while taking a bath. Arazo is now at Sulaimaniyah hospital.
• Gulstan Ahmad, 17, a student at a computer institute, was burned while home alone. She allegedly filled a kerosene heater with benzene instead of kerosene.
Immediate action is required to stop the violence against women in Ranya and Qaladiza. The human rights of women and girls are being violated on a daily basis with long-lasting consequences on the physical, psychological, and social health of women, children, and the greater community in this region.
Given the surge in violence against women since January 2012, Wadi calls on the KRG to declare a state of emergency in Ranya and Qaladiza.
Wadi also calls for all government establishments and organizations, from police and security forces to the KRG Ministry of Human Rights and others to be on high alert. These cases of murders and suicides must be confronted with a serious plan that prevents violence against women and prosecutes offenders, in accordance with the KRG Law No. 8, the Law Against Domestic Violence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Finally, awareness campaigns must be increased and should combine a broad range of strategies to reach the community on all levels, from door-to-door educational visits to large demonstrations that call for an end to the violence and crimes against women and girls.