The need for a ‘Kurdish’ form of feminism
Kurdish woman, known as Shadi opens oil changing shop for automobiles in Slemani city (male dominated field).

Kurdish women can often be their own worst enemies in relation to challenging the normative status quo, especially when it comes down to what constitutes as feminism in the region. This might sound strange, but for some reason, the word ‘feminist’ has become an ‘ugly’ word for women to associate themselves with.

To some this might be perceived as a gross over-generalisation, but from countless incidents that I have encountered, women are always amongst the first to criticize each other and challenge new ideals/ideas pertaining to gender, sexuality and their so-called “role” within society. I don’t believe women are to blame for this, but decades of patriarchy instilled in our society/communities are the source of this ‘destructive attitude.’

In 2005, Margot Badran defined feminism(s) in Middle East as mainly belonging to two categories or “paradigms” — secular feminism and Islamic feminism[1]. I wonder, what if between these two paradigms that supposedly intersect, there could exist a third paradigm in Middle East? This paradigm would be consistent with the realities Kurdish women face in Kurdistan Region (keeping in mind that Kurdistan itself consists of various regional governments and authorities).

For instance, feminists in Iran have attempted to challenge monolithic interpretations of religion that undermines women, and particularly interpretations that are male-centric. Fereshteh Ahmadi points out that they are “opening the doors of interpretation of sacred texts and debates on women’s issues.[2]”

Although, the progress of women in Iran can be questioned, particularly with the number of state-sanctioned restrictions on them. Nonetheless, Iranian feminists residing in Iran have often used holy texts to deconstruct religious ideas that limit the right(s) and role(s) of women. In Kurdistan Region, we don’t face the religious imposition that women face e.g. Iran or Saudi Arabia, but we still face challenges that are rooted in both culture and interpretation of Islam.

Why can’t we have a Kurdish form of feminism that can challenge the societal, political and even religious inequalities women face? This has to be done in a language that can express the grievances of women and challenge patriarchy in a region that has been deeply rooted in patriarchal ideals.

My references to feminism and its expansion seeks to uncover more than the superficial and fetishisation of women as soldiers. I’m talking about the type of feminism that moves beyond the basic framework and seeks to understand why women find themselves in their current socio-economic and political situation.

(Note: I wrote this on feminism in 2013 and whether we need feminism in Kurdistan).

Further reading

[1] Margot Badran, ‘Between Secular And Islamic Feminism/s: Reflections On The Middle East And Beyond’ (2005) 1 Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

[2] Fereshteh Ahmadi, ‘Islamic Feminism In Iran: Feminism In A New Islamic Context’ (2006) 22 Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.


One thought on “The need for a ‘Kurdish’ form of feminism

  1. I think one of the root causes of the destructuve attitude of women in kurdistan in regards to feminism is that they are not aware of their rights or if they are, they are waiting for a male figure to give it to them whether it be a father, brother etc. You often hear when a women accomplishes something in kurdistan she is quick to give credit to a male person in her life that is supporting her and as a result minimising what she has accomplished. It is also imporant for more women to speak up for themselves without the fear of ‘tarnishing their honor’. Or even a step further try to eliminate that concept all together where females in society are secluded in fear of bringing shame onto the family and where the honor of the family is tied to the females.

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