Open Letter to
UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres and
UN Women Executive Director Dr. Sima Sami Bahous
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the United Nations is launching a campaign entitled “UNITE! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women & Girls! #NoExcuse”.
#NoExcuse should be more than a rallying call, it should include concrete actions by the United Nations against member states who systematically commit violence against women including feminicide. We Kurdish women therefore say that there is #NoExcuse for the feminicide against us by the regimes of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Both structural and physical violence is on the rise in Kurdistan due to Turkish and Iranian expansionism in the Middle East. Both states are focused on silencing the Kurds, as our homeland Kurdistan is of great geostrategic and geopolitical importance. In the ongoing war against the Kurds, a campaign of ethnic cleansing is being carried out through parallel strategies of cultural genocide and feminicide.
Kurdish women are historically the hereditary bearers of the Kurdish language, culture and traditions. To erase the Kurdish identity, Turkey has carried out feminicide over the last 100 years while simultaneously using other strategies aimed at the forced assimilation or elimination of the Kurdish people. The Turkish state policy of feminicide is implemented even beyond the country’s borders; in 2014, the Turkish-based Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group massacred and enslaved Yazidi (Êzîdî) Kurdish women in the Sinjar region of Iraq, and since 2019 the Kurdish women of Afrin and other areas of Syria occupied by Turkish-backed forces have faced arbitrary violence including murder, kidnapping, and rape at the hands of local militias.
The Turkish state’s various wars have far-reaching social consequences that will be felt for generations to come. Military attacks and ever-present threats of military action are intended to depopulate Kurdistan, compelling Kurds to flee their homeland for big cities or foreign countries. Additionally, the ongoing construction of Turkish military bases and outposts in various regions, including areas in South Kurdistan (Iraq), is forcing Kurds from their homes. Hundreds of trees are being burned or cut down in Kurdistan’s forests to facilitate the movement of the Turkish military. With all of this displacement and destruction, women are being robbed of their livelihood and placed in increasingly vulnerable living situations in unfamiliar and unstable environments, with the violence of the state entering deep into the home.
Furthermore, the ruling regimes in both Turkey and Iran openly weaponize faith, claiming to be acting in the name of Islam while using state security forces and political and legal institutions to subjugate women, forcing them to live in medieval conditions. They want to make women invisible. Religious Kurdish Muslims are financially encouraged to act in accordance with the state’s patriarchal agenda. Erdogan seeks to accomplish what ISIS, a group he openly supported, was unable to achieve during its brutal war against Kurdish women.
Kurdish women gained worldwide attention through their successful fight against ISIS and, in 2022, through the spread of the slogan “Jin Jiyan Azadî – Woman Life Freedom”, which became a rallying cry throughout Iran against the ongoing persecution of women by that regime. The region’s entrenched powers are concerned, and the more Kurdish women strengthen and assert themselves, the more we see the state reinforce structural violence against them.
Kurdish women in politics and public life are being murdered in broad daylight using military drones as an integral part of Turkey’s war and occupation strategy throughout Kurdistan in Bakur (Turkey), Başûr (South Kurdistan-Iraq), and Rojava (Syria), in open violation of international law. For example, in South Kurdistan (Iraq), activist Nagehan Akarsel was murdered by Turkish drones in the morning hours of October 1, 2022.
In Turkey, thousands of politically active Kurdish women are in prison. The Iranian regime has intensified structural and physical violence against women, especially Kurdish women, particularly after the Kurdish women’s liberation slogan Jin Jiyan Azadî became a nationwide rallying cry for a comprehensive revolt against the patriarchal regime. The majority of imprisoned women in Iran are Kurds. In addition to arbitrary detention, the Kurdish women of Iran face other forms of institutionalized violence.
The sudden disappearance of Kurdish women’s rights activist Varishe Moradi earlier this year is one example of regime violence against women. To date, the fate of Moradi remains unknown, causing us deep concern.
In North and East Syria, Turkey is keeping dormant cells of ISIS alive to remind the Kurds in particular of the feminicides committed by IS in 2014. The main reason for Turkey’s war in Syria is to destroy the region’s democratic project, a novel approach in the war-torn country which gives a voice to all of the regions ethnic and religious communities and was made possible through a revolution led by women, whose rights are now protected and promoted by the local authorities.
Both Iran and Turkey systematically target Kurdish women. Both states commit feminicide to protect existing patriarchal structures and eliminate the Kurdish people and Kurdish identity. Feminicide, like genocide, is a crime against humanity. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we call for the UN to take concrete legal and political steps against the regimes committing these crimes and join us in saying, and demonstrating to the world, that there is #NoExcuse For Erdogan and Raisi.
Women’s Commission of KNK
November 22, 2023