‘Male privilege’ in Kurdistan

What is male Barzaniprivilege in Kurdistan? It is the social, economic, political and additional rights that are available to men at the expense of women.

Men dominate the political and decision-making process in Kurdistan Region. There is only one female minister, Nawroz Mawlood Amin and she runs the Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism.

The official governmental page merely cites that she was born in 1970. No additional information is available regarding her activities, past, education, interests, hometown or any other relevant information that people might actually want to read about.

Nawroz is the sole female minister in the current cabinet, and out of a total of 19 ministries, she was elected for tourism.

Other than the invisible cloak, which the respected Minister Nawroz seems to operate under, little information is provided in general about her activities, which again, through no fault of her own, but the structured system of injustice against women. Our politicians and government is keen to plaster an image of “barely-reaching-there-equality” for the sake of silencing critics.

The patriarchal system in Kurdistan does not stop here. It has become manifest in literally every field, and most recently in what should have been the most progressive and intellectually forward conference in Kurdistan Region’s Erbil city.

The Middle East Research Institute in Kurdistan (MERI-K) held its second annual conference at Rotana hotel. The conference was dominate by men, with only a few foreign women being provided a platform as a moderator, and speaker.

Among the women who attended the conference were several MPs, political advisers and educated women, who could have shared their much-needed insight into the political mess that Iraq and Kurdistan Region currently find themselves in, but their voices were neglected.

It is not just Kurdistan Region, but throughout Middle East, the voices of women are not valued and are simply neglected. It is as though, our voices are not important, that we are incapable of assisting or being part of the decision-making process. That our participation in politics should only be cosmetic for the international community to bestow their approval, but the truth is, that’s not enough.

It’s not enough that we only have one female minister who is placed in a post that in reality plays out to be of little significance to the struggles of the average worker. We should be outraged that male privilege in Kurdistan Region is left unquestioned, and the only time women collectively campaign for something is when an bigoted Islamist happens to make a sexist remark.

We have to move beyond that, and must work forward together, not just as women, but as Kurdish people. Our job should be to question every institution that lets male privilege manifest, and fosters an environment where women don’t feel welcome.

While MERI-K should be commended for their numerous events, but the truth is, the level of patriarchy and sexism is not just with this policy institute, but throughout Kurdistan Region’s political institutions there are structural and systematic discrimination against women.

I have no doubt that the President of MERI-K, Dr. Dlawer Aala’aldeen has attempted to better the position of women within Kurdistan through their numerous seminars, campaigns and grassroots efforts at MERI-K. The criticism of MERI-K is not levelled against him personally, but the institution justified the lack of women being present by claiming there were not sufficient qualified women to be invited.

This justification is unacceptable. The institute invited the Foreign Minister of Turkey, and in the same vein, it could have invited leading female politicians, thinkers, and academics in Middle East.

Progress can only be made when women are treated equal to men — not in theory or paperwork but in reality. Kurdistan’s progress is contingent upon the role women play politically, without women’s participation, there can be no democracy, progress or justice.

Women’s issues are continuously sidelined, often deemed inconvenient, or “ill-timed”. We can not wait until Kurdistan regions a democracy or until the war with ISIS is over because we do not know when that will be possible.

Instead we should work on what is happening now — the struggles women are facing politically, socially and otherwise. In keeping silent about male privilege in Kurdistan, we are merely serving conservative attitudes and maintaining the status quo that provides men with a pedestal in every field.

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