Northern Iraq, “The deadly fire of shame”

Northern Iraq, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan, has developed economically in the last few years. As a result, more women are able to progress to university level and obtain jobs in the job market. However, due to such traditional settings, women’s rights still have a long journey in order to be fully recognised. Due to having a patriarchal and conservative society, women in Iraqi Kurdistan are faced with discrimination, social injustice and domestic violence. Some Women in the Kurdish culture are faced with:
• Early marriages
• Forced marriages
• Not allowed to work
• No continuation in studies
• Women are preferred to stay at home

The above factors mostly occur in villages and collective towns due to ancient traditions.
A recent BBC report “Why women in Iraqi Kurdistan setting themselves on fire?” by Mahmut Hamsici states that between 250 to 400 incidents a month occur where women set themselves on fire in a hospital in Erbil. The regional minister of human rights, Youssif Mohamed Aziz, stated that in 2007, 97 women attempted suicide through self-immolation during four months. These 97 women were from the following cities in Iraqi Kurdistan:
• 60 from Erbil
• 21 from Dahouk
• 16 from Sulaymaniyah

These types of incidents are suicide attempts in order to escape embarrassment and shame. When their families find out they had committed shameful behaviours or acts they would set themselves on fire. When these women were questioned by authorities, they usually do not disclose the real reasons behind their injuries and state that they had an accident. The absence of truth in police files makes it difficult for researchers to obtain accurate information on what is truly happening in Iraqi Kurdistan.