Friday, October 17, 2014

Kurdish Female Fighters and Kobanê Style Revolution

Kurdish Female Fighters and Kobanê Style Revolution
The role of women in war, peace and revolution has long been portrayed in manifold, often contradictory ways. Images of women as victims, pacifist peace makers, protestors, and home makers have dominated literature. Opposed to these images we find that the male figure is represented as a fighter, the ones who take part in war and defend the motherland against the enemy. The homeland is thus a female body a passive and defenceless geography which requires brave men to defend and protect her. It could be argued that history is written by men; therefore they narrate it in a manner that suits the usual gender stereotypes.
The Middle East, North Africa and their female populations in particular have been represented, portrayed and stereotyped in different ways, at different times and in different contexts. Take a look at the media coverage of the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region. News of the sexual harassment of women in the "Arab uprising", brutal attacks, imprisonments and virginity tests of female protestors dominated the screens. Yet women played a significant role in these events. For them, the uprising was part of a long history of resistance to suppression and a lack of freedom in their countries. The fact is that women were fighting and have proved their existence despite the counter revolutionary and anti-women treatment that they were receiving.
Today this portrayal is reversed. We now see photos, video footage, reports, documentaries and writing about the Kurdish female freedom fighters in Kurdistan. Kobanê a predominantly Kurdish city in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) on the Syrian-Turkish border is dominating our thoughts, our understanding and perception of the role of women in society and revolution.
If women are suppressed, and hanged in public or stoned to death in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, then Kurdish female fighters are up in arms against such a fate at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are not only taking part in a fierce fight against ISIS, they have taken a leading role in this fight against Islamists as military commanders of both women and men.
Through the interviews, statements and the role played by these women, they are showing extraordinary courage, consciousness and a rejection of traditional gender roles and relations. They refuse to be assigned with a particular gender role i.e. to be care givers, or logistics providers to male fighters, or only take part in protests and later go home to their families and kids. In fact, at the same time as fighting ISIS they are fighting for gender equality.
To those who wish to see women return to their stereotypical roles as peace brokers and peace makers, I would ask exactly who are they supposed to be making peace with? With ISIS, who are one of the most brutal terrorist organisations on the face of the planet; who have as their main mission to drag society back into the dark ages; who force female children and women into Jihad Alnikah, who rape and sell them in slave markets under their own control?
I believe this new model of women occupying the highest positions in politics and as freedom fighters on the front line against ISIS poses important challenges to feminist peace theorising. We need to examine the political context, and the outcome of conflicts on women and their futures. In the case of Kurdish women, taking up arms and fighting on the front line is perhaps their best option. To refuse to become slaves, to be raped, killed or ruled by Islamic Sharia Law under ISIS is only viable through armed resistance. We still do not know about the fate of hundreds of Yezidi women who were captured by ISIS when they invaded Shengal in Iraqi Kurdistan.
This new figure, the female freedom fighter in the heart of a revolutionary culture, provides hope. Most of the time we hear them repeat that they don't want to remain in traditional family relations or just bring up kids; they want to live freely, and to be independent. These statements are extremely important in terms of rejecting marriage as a form of domesticating women and relegating them to second class citizens in traditional societies. They are well aware that these ambitions cannot be obtained if they are still under threat from ISIS. Therefore, they armed themselves and occupied important positions in politics and social life. They have won the trust, admiration and respect of people not only in Kurdistan but worldwide. The fact is they are up in arms against the most reactionary, misogynist and sexist mind-set of the Islamic terror group ISIS.
The reality is that their struggle is a universal one; they are fighting ISIS on behalf of all of us.
Despite the threats from ISIS, Assad's regime and Turkey - who are allied with ISIS - people in Kobanê are determined to defeat ISIS. Kobanê and people in Rojava are our only hope in defeating a new form of Islamo-fasicm that our region has been infected by for a long time. Ever since Islam came to existence the killing, rape, sex slavery and selling of women and exchanging them as well as capturing them as spoils of war has been a feature in this region. I would argue that there is no moderate Islam. There is one form of Islam using different masks and utilising ancient and modern techniques to maintain power. It is about time ordinary Muslims question their religion, and start to think how many more centuries they should endure religious oppression? This same religion and its Sharia law has confined women and relegated them to an inferior position in family and society.
One important and indeed glorious side of this struggle against political Islam is that it is women who are up in arms against its dictate. Kurdish female fighters are fighting on behalf of all women in the Middle East who have suffered for many centuries and continue to suffer under Islamic regimes and their Sharia Laws. I would say it is about time that women in Middle East, North Africa and the world over to show their solidarity, support and share their struggle. Political Islam's genocide against women and men should be countered and fought against in Kobanê style. The role these brave Kurdish women are playing in defending their dignity, rights, freedoms and protecting their own cities from these brutal terrorists is only possible because they have taken up arms. No one wants war, but Kurdish women learnt that if they don't fight them then as soon as they are captured they will be raped, taken as spoils of war, sold in slave markets or married of terrorists in Nikah-Jihad.
My only hope is that Kobanê, its brave women and men, can defeat political Islam symbolised in ISIS. Its people are fighting through their own will power and through an aspiration for freedom in a revolutionary manner. Kobanê will always be the land mark of one of the most extraordinary revolutionary fights of our time.

My article published on 07/10/2014 Huffington post

Sunday, September 07, 2014

My interview for the English section of Millet webpage.

"Above all, Islamic jihadist/terrorists want women for sex. A huge part of their propaganda has been about sex and sexual jihad. They promise men 72 virgins in heaven and sexual jihad or Jihad Al-nikah on earth, whereby female terrorists will serve male terrorists by providing sexual services. The whole idea of the sexual objectification of women has been part and parcel of their politics. After all it is taken from their holy book and Islamic Sharia law"

Here is the rest of the interview:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This is my interview for WLUML website on the situation of women in Iraq and Kurdistan and my political struggle. 

Day 16/16 of Activism Against Gender Violence: Women Rights and War.


"Growing up in such high level of political violence, state oppression, and degradation had left its impact on me of course... from a very early age I became very rebellious against imposed norms and restrictions.”
The Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

After the invasion in 2003, the situation of Iraqi women deteriorated and the rights and freedoms of women have been severely jeopardized.

Several organisations are now working hard to fight for Iraqi women. The Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) works at all levels to defend women’s rights and strive for freedom and equality. The rise of Islamist extremism and conservatism in Iraqi society as a result of many years of wars, sanctions and dictatorship has meant that women are the main loser of these wars.
The situation in Iraq is so dire that OWFI has to take a stand against violations of women’s rights on a daily basis. The organisation struggles against gender-based violence, sexism, racism, tribalism, and traditions which contribute to subjugation of women. Lately they have stepped in to defend LGBT rights, as they have been targeted and massacred by Islamist militias.
Getting involved
Houzan Mahmoud, a prominent activist in OWFI, was born and grew up in Kurdistan. Like many Kurdish people from a very early age she is a witness to and survivor of many wars.
“My passion and determination to defend women’s rights, break taboos and expose violence against women goes back to what I have witnessed and experienced as a female in my society.”
Kurdish people were subjected to violence, genocide, chemical bombardment, and ethnic cleansing by the Ba’ath regime. They were treated as second class citizens, and were systematically targeted for imprisonment, torture, mass executions, mass killings and the destruction of their homes.
This was Houzan’s life for two decades, this is what she witnessed. Growing up in the midst of political violence, state oppression, and degradation had shaped her. Her family was highly involved in politics, and engaged in armed struggle against the regime. Her brothers were Marxists - this had a profound impact on her self- awareness as a woman in a traditional society.
Since she grew up in a society where normal life was something far from reality, women’s freedoms were looked at as a matter of luxury for a society in a state of war, widespread violence and militarisation. Houzan has had to fight back against this representation and evaluation of women’s essential rights.
Women in Iraq and Kurdistan region
Kurdistan has gone through many decades of political instability, violence and war and the Kurdish people still bear its scars. Women in such societies suffer from multiple layers of violence, sexism, discrimination and inequality.
Houzan points out that they suffer from honour killings, FGM, forced marriages, early marriages, stoning, rape, marital rape and many other forms of violence. In Iraq, wars, sanctions, and occupation have pushed women’s rights back to the dark ages and political Islam and many other conservative norms and values have gained resonance in society.
According to Houzan, the veil and burqa, sexual violence, trafficking, and forced prostitution are at their peak today. Poverty, lack of rights, unemployment, widowhood, widespread of violence and lack of security are among the many issues that women have to deal with in the here and now.
Women in conflict situations
“In any situation of conflict, post conflict, war and occupation women are targeted because of their gender. Rape, attacks, kidnapping, killing, and subjugation of women is almost part and parcel of any political agenda of the parties involved in this conflict.”
In the case of Iraqi occupation, Houzan argues, women were used by the US and UK governments as a means to ‘modernise’ Iraqi politics. The imperialist project in Iraq needed women to give it legitimacy, using the excuse that women under Saddam’s regime were not represented in politics.
Houzan suggests that political groups also utilized women to craft an ‘authentic’ identity for themselves in the Iraqi milieu, through the promotion of veiling and advocacy for Islamist agendas. We can now see women ministers and parliamentarians defending child marriage, and sharia law as part of their cultural and Islamic identity.
Major successes and challenges
“When you are faced with violence at all levels, you have to stand up against inequality and lack of justice.”
OWFI has brought many vital issues to the attention of Iraqi society and the world. The International Campaign Against Killing and Stoning of Women in Kurdistan helped to expose the brutal stoning of Dua Khalil Aswad, a Yazidi girl aged only 17 years-old. They also launched a campaign against the imposition of sharia law in both the Iraqi and Kurdistan’s constitutions.
OWFI also did crucial work highlighting the issue of trafficking and prostitution of women in Iraq. This problem had been invisibilised, denied even by many women’s groups, but OWFI brought it into the light.
Challenges and obstacles of course remain. The divisions in society, sexism, and the rise of Islamism – Houzan notes that all these create obstacles to progressive work and ideas. But, she says, they are up to the challenge.
The price of speaking out
It is not easy to be outspoken and to stand boldly against the general currents in society.
When OWFI campaigned against sharia law, they faced many threats. Nor is the government supportive of their work, because Houzan and her fellow activists aim to expose the root causes of gender based violence.
“I believe that our suppression and the women question in general is political; therefore we need to be tackling these issues from a political and class perspective.”
OWFI are not reformists, says Houzan, looking for partial or temporary solutions to the many problems women face in Iraqi society. Root causes such as class inequality, politicized religion, traditions and conservative norms and values need to be named, called out, broken and eradicated.
Houzan Mahmoud is a Kurdish women’s rights campaigner and an international voice for women’s and workers’ rights in Iraq and the Kurdistan region. She is the spokesperson for the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), a pioneering national women’s organization dedicated to rebuilding Iraq on the basis of secular democracy and human rights for all.

This is a short interview for a book about 100 atheists worldwide in a book..

(Explore the meaning and joy of life with 100 fellow & famous atheists in this book of photos and commentary).

Here is the link to my interview :

I have given this short video interview to The Abundance Lab Organisation in Manchester for the occasion of 8 March International Women's Day.

Here is the link to my interview

My speech on 8 March International Women's Day in Frankfurt-Germany. This seminar was organised by
Equal Rights Now- Organisation for emancipation of women in Iran and The council of X-Muslims in Germany.
Here is the link to my talk:

Women in Iraq 10 years on; Tracy Chevalier

 Houzan Mahmood talks to Sheila McLennon about an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North. 

Here is the link to my interview on BBC Woman's Hour

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today is 14 March 2012: International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates

Today is 14 March 2012: International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates

Post your actions and support here or on the Facebook page below.

Here is more information on the day and contact details where you can send your protests: Countless individuals face threats, imprisonment, and execution because of their criticism of religion and religious authorities. Blasphemy and Apostasy laws as well as uncodified rules imposed by both state and non-state actors aim primarily to restrict thought and expression and limit the rights of Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Such rules exist in a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.
On 14 March 2012, we, the undersigned, are calling for simultaneous events and actions in defence of the critics of religion in order to highlight medieval laws and exert pressure to save the lives of the women and men facing execution, imprisonment or threats.
Whilst there are countless people awaiting punishment under these rules and regulations, we are highlighting ten such cases, namely:
-Hamza Kashgari, Saudi Arabia: 23 year old Muslim, charged with blasphemy for tweeting about Mohammad and women’s status
-Alex Aan, Indonesia: 30 year old atheist, charged with blasphemy for saying there is no god on Facebook
-Asia Bibi, Pakistan: 45 year old mother of five, sentenced to death for blasphemy for ‘insulting Mohammad’
-Yousef Nadarkhani, Iran: 34 year old sentenced to death for apostasy for converting to Christianity
-Nabil Karoui, Tunisia: charged with ‘violating sacred values’ for showing the film Persepolis
-Saeed Malekpour, Iran: sentenced to death for ‘insulting and desecrating Islam’

-Muhammad Samiullah, Pakistan: 17 year old, charged with blasphemy, for ‘derogatory remarks’ about Mohammad on his exams

-Adel Imam, Egypt: comic actor jailed for three months for ‘insulting Islam’

-Sarwar Penjweni, Iraqi Kurdistan: threatened for researching Islam and Quranic texts.
-Lanja Abdulla, Iraqi Kurdistan: Director of Warvin Foundation for Women Issues threatened at a public meeting for challenging religious authority
The success of this international day and the very lives of those it hopes to save depend on the intervention of each and every one of us.

We call on groups and individuals to take action on this day by organising a protest or vigil, setting up a table in a city centre, writing a letter, signing a petition, drawing a picture, taking a photo, making a video – anything at all – to highlight these medieval laws and rules, defend free expression and the women and men whose lives are at stake.
You can also register your protests here below:
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs E-mail address:
Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs E-mail:
Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Kurdistan Regional Government-Kurdistan-Iraq

Egypt-Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Tunisia- Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Initial signatories:

 Houzan Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq-UK
 Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK
 Evelyne Accad, Professor Emeritus University of Illinois and Lebanese American University, USA

 Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Stoning, Germany
 Sargul Ahmad, Women Organization in Iraq, Canada
 Mahin Alipour, Director, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Sweden
 Evan Darraji, Writer and Artist, Iraq
 Patty Debonitas, Iran Solidarity, UK
 Deeyah, Music Producer, Norway/USA
 Jani Diylan, Journalist, USA

 Tarek Fatah, Muslim Canadian Council, Canada
 Tahir Gora, Editor and Publisher, Canada
 Laura Guidetti, Feminist Activist (Marea), Italy
 Maria Hagberg, Chairperson of the Network against Honour Related Violence, Sweden/Iraq
 Asos Hardi, Director of Awene newspaper, Kurdistan-Iraq
 Farzaneh Hassan, Writer, Canada
 Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue, France

Sundas Hoorain, Pakistani Human Rights Lawyer, UK
Abbas Kamil, Unity Against Unemployment in Iraq, Iraq

Monica Lanfranco, Journalist (Marea), Italy

Nahla Mahmoud, Director, Sudan: Non-Religious out loud, Sudanese Humanists Group, UK

Hassan Radwan, Management Committee, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, UK

Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space, UK

Nina Sankari, European Feminist Initiative, Poland

Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner, UK

Issam Shukri, Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq, Canada

Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslims Laws, UK

Adnan Honarvar: Writter-Kurdistan

Gona Saeed: Political ad women’s rights activist-UK

Adilah Nasir: Human rights activist- Malaysia

Ciaran MacAoidh: Member of Atheist Ireland

Clara Connolly-London

Christiane Passevant: France

Yacoub abu-bakr: Palestine

Yacov Benyamin

Ha-kohen ben-arieh: Israel

Jason White: USA

Kerri Levine: USA

Jean Beaini: Milton Keynes-UK

Achintha:  Colombo'-Sri lanka

Soheila Dalvand: Canada

Wael Saleem : Riyadh
Deniz Günal:  Melbourne Australia
Christa Rihani Ooms: The Netherlands.
Naima Nash:  Eygptian in UK

Eric swinson:  Morocco

Toyer Khan: South Africa

Cathe Kidd:  U.S.A.

Sawsan Esbaitah: UAE.
Francesc Ferrero Herrera:  Alacant-Spain.

Monday, March 12, 2012

14 March 2012: International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates

read more here:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seminar organised by Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Feminist fightback to mark 8 March International Women's Day in London

Thursday, March 08, 2012

My interview on Aljazeera about Women's qouta system.

The European Commission says the region is too slow in getting more women into top jobs. But as it suggests legislation, are quotas the best way to help them up the career ladder? Guests: Jo Sawicki, Ranjana Kumari, Patricia Rochford, Houzan Mahmoud

My speech in Genoa-Italy June 2011 on Religion, Culture and cultrual relativism.

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Petition to Free Hamza Kashgari Saudi writer