Women rights activists have warned of growing domestic violence against women in Kirkuk, indicating that the lack of a women’s shelter is putting their lives at risk.
Women and girls experiencing domestic violence and threatened to be killed by relatives are unable to find a safe haven in Kirkuk, drawing harsh criticism from women's rights activists.
The head of the Kirkuk office of the Iraqi Amal (Hope) Association for Human Rights, Sirood Ahmed, says that murder, divorce, suicide and domestic violence cases in Kirkuk are recording a rapid rise.
“We have recorded cases of extreme violence; with some cases involving fathers forcing their daughters to sell their kidneys. Despite the cruelty of some cases, we don’t have a place to shelter the victims,” she told KirkukNow.
The government and the security departments are not doing much to protect women who face threats
Sirood Ahmed noted that some of the Amal Association’s staff members have faced serious threats and are risking their lives when dealing with such cases.
“The task bestowed upon our organizations is very difficult because the government and the security departments are not doing much to protect women who face threats; furthermore unlicensed weapons could be found in most households.”
Over the past 10 years, human rights organizations and women's rights advocates have repeatedly urged the Iraqi Ministry of Interior to provide women’s shelters, yet their requests remained unanswered.
“The opening of shelters for abused women and girls will decrease murder and divorce cases, because they can provide protection for women who are subjected to violence and threats, as our organization legally cannot shelter them” said Sirood, adding that “when a woman or a girl is under the protection of the government, it is very unlikely that someone would dare to kill her.”
Except for the Kurdistan Region, no women’s refuges are available in Kirkuk and the rest of the disputed territories; therefore they would be transferred Kurdistan Region provinces of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in coordination with women rights organizations.
Patriarchal attitudes prevalent in our society, making it is very difficult for us to shelter battered women
Chiman Ahmed, a lawyer and women rights activist in Kirkuk, speaking to KirkukNow said, “The lack of shelters represents a major problem for us; we encounter different cases of domestic violence, yet we don’t know how to deal with them.”
Human rights activists say the opening of women’s shelters requires legislation, indicating that the issue has not been regulated by law in Iraq.
Chiman Ahmed blames “society's patriarchal attitudes” for the problem. “Patriarchal attitudes prevalent in our society, making it is very difficult for us to shelter battered and threatened women; therefore, we send them to shelters in the provinces of the Kurdistan Region.”
No official statistics are available on murder cases of women in Kirkuk, but activists say they believe the lack of shelters is a leading factor that contributes to increased risk on their safety.