It’s autumn in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq – and the wedding season is coming to an end. Marriage for most Kurdish brides promises freedom and respectibility. But for others, it can bring isolation, cruelty and even death. This ‘Life’ programme explores how oppression of the minority Kurds in the disputed enclave of north Iraq has unleashed a chain of violence – often directed at the weakest members of Kurdish society: its women. A former doctor, Nasik gave up her career to run a shelter for women living under threat of death from their families. “Till now,” she says, “hundreds of women have been killed in Iraqi Kurdistan simply because they fell in love, or because they demanded their basic rights – such as the right to divorce or to be treated as a human being, to go outdoors, to be free to talk to other men.” Beyan is a lawyer fighting to change the laws on justice for women. “A lot of people treat honour like capital,” she explains, “and for them, their capital is women and should be guarded closely.” Ironically, one area of Kurdish life where women are most free is in the government-backed Peshmerga Force of women soldiers. Thirty-one year Rezan, their commander, spent two years in Iraqi prisons, and lost both her brother and fiancee to Saddam Hussein’s forces. Now she teaches her young recruits to stand up for thier rights. “Young women should be active players in tomorrow’s society.” she says. “I teach them how to look after themselves.”
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