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Introducing Kurdistan Women Union

By: Dr. Vian Sleman
Secretary of the Women's Union in Kurdistan


Kurdistan Women Union (KWU) has served Kurdistan women for more than 66 years till now and saved no efforts in bringing new and modern programs to improve its organizational tasks in order to obtain important achievements for Kurdistan women and also in an effort to be the organization that collects all Kurdstani women despite political differences, obviously, its success depends on how close it is to Kurdistan women and how is their response to the demands and requests of the union. And to achieve this goal, the organization has to ideologically prepare its staff and well acquaint them with their tasks and responsibilities, and aware them with the history of the organization and the goals it’s established for, showing them the ideological path of the organization about Kurdish national issues in general, and women’s issues in Kurdish society, in particular.
As a responsibility towards this long- standing organization, and as an extension to my other responsibilities as the secretary of Kurdistan women’s union, I wrote this booklet derived from my direct contact with the staff members of the organization or through the large number of debates and seminars or media interviews I attended during my career. This will be a start for a larger project aiming to raise the cadres and staff members Kurdistan women union with the union`s ideology and goals through ideological publications of the organization. This booklet is the start and others would follow, a step that would make our union a self-taught organization raising its cadres by itself.
The booklet is divided to three parts; the first part is about the establishment of the union and its historical stages. The second part is about the visions of the union towards woman and national issues. The third part is about the achievements the union obtained throughout its career, and also talks about the specifications it`s cadres must have, shown in several points.
 The whole three parts are produced in a FAQ shape, and answered in an easy way.
I hope this publication would be useful for the union`s cadres and would serve the bright past of Kurdistan Women`s Union.

Dr.Vian Sleman

Part 1: the establishment of the Union:

1-When the union was established?
Kurdistan Women`s Union was established in secret in 11/12/1952, and because of the bad political situations at that time, it is first conference was not to be held, therefore, the administration board was been chosen consultatively among 10 women leaders at that time, including: Drakhshan Jalal Hafeed, Swraiya Malagawra, Najya Mustafa fandi, Najiya Mirza Ghafuor, Nhida Mirza Ghafour. Aftaw Kareem, Madiha Muhammad Kareem. This group has worked together in Suleimani area, secretly, until 1958, without having any organizational grade or rank. There were other groups working in other cities, like in Zakho, or in Kerkuk, or in Khanaquin, but they had no contacts.
2-How were the situations when the Union was established?
The Union was established in very bad political and social circumstances. Politically the area was unstable; our nation was under a serious risk and the occupation government was pursuing a policy of extermination against our people. Socially, the community was totally patriarchy.
3-What is the definition of Kurdistan women`s Union?
It is a civil popular organization interested in Kurdish women's affairs. It works within the frame of Global Feminism to obtain women`s rights and prepare them for participation in in the deferent aspects of modern social and political life.
4-What are the stages the Union establishment passed by?
Stag one: underground stage, 1952 – 1958.
Stage two: The stage of public action, opening of headquarters in cities, expansion and performing activities, 1958 – 1961.
Stage three: participation in (September Revolution) and the start of revolutionary actions to prove the role and women in the revolution, 1961 – 1970.
Stage four: from 1970 to 1975, when the agreement of 11th of April was declared; in this stage the Union began its formal and legal organizational acts, held meetings and conferences, and developed an internal law and regulation for the movement.
Stage five: the stage of working abroad, from 1975 to 1991.
Stage six: the stage of post Kurdistan 1991 uprising, the return to cities and work among public and start civil action.
5-When and where congresses were held?
1st congress:
 it was held secretly from 1-4/2/ 1962 in the house of Mrs. Bahiya Marouf, in which the name of the organization was been changed from (the Union of PDK Kurdistan women – Iraq) to (Kurdistan Women`s Union).
2nd congress:
 a KWU delegation made of the representatives the cities of Dihok, Suleimaniya, Neinawa, Kerkuk, and Khanaquin, participated in a congress for Iraq women Union, held in Baghdad in 25/9/1970, but the delegation has soon withdrew from the congress due to incompatibility of visions and objectives. Consequently, it held its second congress in Baghdad in 18/4/1971 and issued a number of important decisions for that time, and Mrs. Zakiya Ismaeel Haqi was selected as the secretary of the organization. In 13/2/1972 it held it is first conference, to make preparation for the third congress.
3rd congress:
 The third congress was held in Salahadeen resort from 27 – 29/ 4/ 1972 and Mrs. Zakiya Ismaeel Haqi was reelected for the secretary of the Union.
When the agreement of 11th of April was ended due to what is known as (Algerian plot), the Kurdish people was displaced from 1974 till 1981, and consequently the activities of the Union became next to nothing.
During the years 1982 – 1991, a comity was established abroad under the name of the supreme board of Kurdistan women`s Union, to be able to continue its activities abroad, Wazira Pirdawood was selected as its chairwoman.
Attended by the representatives of Kirkuk, Suleimany, Duhok, and Hawler cities, the conference of martyred Layla Qasim was held in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan Region, From 19-23/2/1992. Although it was called conference but it was treated as a congress and a number of important decisions was issued and Mrs. Shireen Amedy was chosen as the new secretary for the Union.
4th congress:
On 27/7/1997, under the slogan of (equality), the fourth congress was held, attended by representatives of Dihok, Hawler, Kirkuk, Slemany, Ranya, Soran, Akrea, and Halabja branches and the representatives of KWU branches abroad. Mrs. Shereen Amedy was reelected as the secretary.
5th congress:
 It was held in Hewler under the slogan of (peace, equality, and social justice). New inner program was adopted, new administration board was selected, and Mrs. Shereen Amedy was reelected as secretary.
6th congress:
 with the attendance of 175 members, representing all the members of the Union allover Kurdistan, the sixth congress was held in Hawler city on 12-14/3/2007,  under the slogan of (women capacity building for establishing an equal society), Dr.Kurdistan Mukryani was selected as secretary.
7th congress:
It was held in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan region, in Saad Abdullah hall,   on 4-5/8/2010, under the slogan of (towards a modern society and a brighter future). Dr. Viyan Sleman was chosen as secretary.
8th congress:
On 3-4/9/2018, under (Homeland) title and (woman capacity building, advanced society) slogan, the 8th congress was held, attended by 166 members. During which Mrs. Viyan Sleman was elected as a secretary.

6-What was the main goal behind the establishment of the Union?
The main objectives behind establishing the Union was to improve women`s awareness and capabilities to make them able to defend their rights and demand equal chances in participation in the national and social cases. Women`s participation in the social and national cases comes from the belief of their equality with men in the rights and responsibilities towards the social and national tasks, and will save no effort to prove that. Kurdistan Women`s Union has established and worked to defend women`s rights, equality, and to face patriarchy culture of the society, and to seek equal opportunities for women, in all aspects of life.

7-How to become a member and take responsibilities in KWU?
According to the rules of procedure of the organization been approved on during the 8th congress, all Kurdistan women can become a member of the Union if she is: above 16 years old, follows the procedures, fills in membership form, and pays membership fee.
All members of the Union can take responsibilities in the deferent organs of the Union If they comply with the conditions and specifications that are within the rules of procedure, and the guidelines issued by the Office of the Secretary-General, which are:
To believe in the goals of the Union and work vigorously to fulfil them.
Believing in equality so that it is reflected in her behaviors and actions.
Compliance with tasks of the Union in accordance with the rules of procedure.
To have Intellectual thoughts and progressive ideas to promote the organization.

8-What are the offices and organs of the Union and how to reach them?
The main office of KWU, which is Secretarial Office, is in Erbil the capital. And it has 24 committees, which are considered high organs after secretarial office, each of which runs and supervises a number of women centers. Every Kurdish woman in Kurdistan and abroad can contact the Union through its electronic site www.afratan.org and become a member of the Union. There is a list of the committees and sub branches and centers at the end of this booklet.

Part 2: visions behind KWU
1-What are the visions behind establishing KWU? And why KDP established KWU?
Every organization must have a vision, i.e. it must have an ideological framework. The vision behind the establishment of KWU was derived from the ideology framework of PDK, which is the first Kurdish political party having deferent visions from its ancestors and managed to gather all national and religious ideas allover Kurdistan in one national democratic party. Meanwhile, PDK was aiming to crucial changes in Kurdish society, including women development, which was a very sensitive issue at that time, due to overwhelming of old traditions. But PDK managed to swim against the waves, and started a struggle, beside the national political struggle, to obtain women`s rights, and made it one of its strategic issues. So it soon established KWU encourages and stimulates Kurdish women to demand their rights and try to change community. Establishing such organization, besides considering it as an effort to bring new values to the community, and an effort to establish a modern community, it also gave a modern feature to the party itself.   
2-What is the perspective of Kurdistan Women's Union on Women's Issues in Kurdish society?
The perspective of KWU about women’s issues is flexible in a way that it shifts according to the periodical changes, therefore, its demands and goals may vary from stage of time to another due to progresses and changes in global feminism perspectives. The organization believes that there is no limit or specific stages to achieve its goals and objectives; therefore, reform is the core of its action.
In KWU perspective, the issue of women is a humanitarian issue, it is about gender segregation. In KWU perspective, the issue of women is also the issue of men too. It is the issue of inequality in deferent sectors of education, social and society culture. It is about certain unwritten social laws, more powerful than the written laws, supporting violence against women or harms them, killing them or forces them to commit self-destruction deeds. KWU struggle is not against men, it is against patriarchy thoughts in society that wants to make women comes second, KWU seeks a human society where everyone is equal, reason rules, equal opportunities provided and others wills respected.

3-What is feminism? Is KWU representing feminism movement in Kurdistan?

Feminism concept, whenever seen, is a movement seeking equality for women. Feminists are those who believe that women are persecuted only because they are women; therefore, something must be done about it. Although feminism started as a political idea of western women movement against patriarchy culture, but now it is becoming a global concept. The main idea of feminism is that women are prosecuted; there must be efforts to save them from prosecution. Therefore, any struggle to prevent segregation against women and achieve equality is, one way or another, considered feminism. Accordingly, KWU is considered a part of this global movement; and it has confirmed this in its definition of the Union when it says that it is working within the framework of global feminism to achieve its goals. Feminism itself is divided now to separate branches , such as liberal, socialist, radical, Marxist, materialist, conservative, separatist, postmodern, and etc. according to the deferent ideas about how to deal with women issue. Therefore, we can say here that KWU is defiantly representing global feminism in Kurdistan and considers itself a part of it. Although it is not considering itself a part of any of the branches mentioned above; it is rather consider itself an original Kurdstani branch, deferent from all other branches. Because every branch of these is coming from particular circumstances deferent from others, and as we struggle for our women rights here in Kurdistan, whom have their own circumstances, we must have answer for their specific problems.

4-What kind of future KWU is eager to provide for Kurdistan women?

KWU is working to obtain all necessary rights for Kurdistan women, and to eliminate all gender differences that prevails a type of gender over another, until there will be no women issues or women persecution any more, and human values prevail.  our society be ready to embrace new and modern changes in which women are free and away from any prosecution, a system must rule in the society in which women are completely free and has the same status as men in decision making and choices, Her voice to be heard in all fields and her opinions respected, and to become a real partner of men in the higher positions.

5-What is the political ideology and of KWU and its point of view towards the national issues?
KWU is a Feminist mass organization following PDK, which means its political ideology is the same as PDK. That means, beside our efforts to improve women issues, we also work on our national issues. In the point of view of this organization women issues are going in a parallel line with our national struggle for freedom and its movements. Kurdish woman is a part of global feminism, at the same time she is a part of her nation`s freedom movements and ready for any task or sacrifice. Our organization is working to make Kurdistan women participates in the national struggle as a conscious figure working to eliminate sexual differences that try to define the role of women and keep them away from the struggles. KWU completely supports and follows the political point of view of our national leader Mr. Masuod Barzani, who is our national manifest and the path of our nation towards freedom.

           Part 3:   Achievements and feats of the Kurdistan Women's Union   

 1- What are the achievements KWU can be proud of? 

In addition to its very primarily mission in defending women’s rights and demanding equality, it has the pride of participation in the national liberation movement and it`s sacrifices in this field are well known. The martyred Layla Qasim, who is been hanged, is considered symbol of Kurdish women sacrifice for the national cause. In the meantime, KWU had a great role in civil struggle for demanding justice and equality for women and in educating Kurdish women about their rights and how to claim them. And it played a key role in the major developments and changes that have taken place in the situation of Kurdish women in all respect during PDK rule.
After the uprising, its role in civil struggle and developing Kurdish society was so obvious, especially in codifying women's rights and creating institutional mechanisms to protect women from violence, educating women about their rights, and educating society about the need to respect those rights. And its role in preparing qualified cadres in all respects, and in this regard, there are now dozens of Women's Union members in the various vital institutions of this country.
  The Union has renewed its slogan with each new phase, and has set progressive goals as the basis for its organizational work.
Because of its bright history, the importance of its objectives, and because of the ability and sincerity of its cadres, the Union has maintained its position as a leading organization and an important center for women's awareness and education.

2-What can a member of the Kurdistan Women's Union be proud of?
The Kurdistan Women's Union is an organization of all women in Kurdistan. Everyone who belongs to this organization becomes a member of an organization with a bright history, full of achievements and influence. One of its characteristics is not to belong to any limited ideologies, and does not impose any type of thinking on its members or possess a specific intellectual framework. Open to all different opinions and ideas in a national framework and gender equality in terms of opportunities granted, privileges and responsibilities. For these and other reasons, the organization is a source of pride for its members.
3-Who are Kurdistan Women's Union cadres and how should they be?
The Union's cadres should have the following characteristics:
-Above all, they must try to get rid of outdated and backward customs and traditions. To fully believe in women's right to equality, and to reflect this in their own lives. To carry an enlightened feminist culture towards women's freedom and equality.
- To be familiar with the work of organizations in general, and their organization in particular. To be familiar with the historical stages of her organization's work. to be fully committed to her organization's program and try to achieve its contents in practice and has positive suggestions and perspectives for its development.
- Union's cadres must be socially active in their social relations, Corresponds to her surroundings and share others their personal events.
- The union staff should know that the work of her organization revolves around the policies of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, so she should work to install and communicate the program of that party and its opinions on women's issues to the Kurdish women and at the same time convey the concerns and aspirations of Kurdish women to the party in order to put them in its government and party work programs, so that she can withdraw the Kurdish women's voice in favor of the party.

4- How do Union cadres develop themselves?
- Promoting the level of knowledge is a priority for all the cadres of the organization, the staff must educate themselves through a variety of channels and be a good reader who benefits from different sources of knowledge.
- Be familiar with women's issues and problems, and follow up women`s publications from magazines and newspapers.
-The staff of the Union should be aware about political issues and be following the political events and following the news in order to increase her political awareness.
- Union's cadres must be aware of the general laws, especially the laws concerning women and family, especially the personal status laws, the law against domestic violence, similar laws in other countries and the legal status of women. There are many other ways in which the cadres of women's organizations can raise their level to become qualified for the task they are entrusted with and have a role in the development of the organization.

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