When the President of the United States has a pair of shoes thrown at him the story covers the front pages and the video is repeatedly played on cable news programs for a week. When the leader of a Kurdistan women’s group is assassinated and beheaded, the story is given a brief AP notice. The fact is that in the context of increasing violence in the city of Kirkuk against Kurds, this act of barbarity is aimed at those forces within southern Kurdistan and northern Iraq that seek to protect the democratic rights of women and the national rights of the Kurdish people. Earlier this month, 57 people were murdered in a bomb attack in Kirkuk against a local initiative to seek political unity.
There are in southern Kurdistan various left political parties and organizations that have sought to unite the national aspirations of Kurdish people with the political demands for socialism and a secular state. The struggle for women’s equality is a profound focus in those movements that seek to oppose the institutionalization of Islamic sharia law in defining social and political rights. The brutal murder of Nahla Hussein al-Shaly was aimed at preventing the effective political organization of Kurdish and Iraqi women defending equal rights.
In 2004, women organized a demonstration in Suleimaniyah where 5000 women protested the attempt to introduce legislation scrapping Iraqi secular family law in Iraq. “The 1959 code was once considered the most progressive in the Middle East, making polygamy difficult and guaranteeing women custody rights in the case of divorce.”This decision is unacceptable for an overwhelming majority of Iraqi people. It violates not only the rights of women of Iraq and Kurdistan, but also international conventions," said Takhshan Zangala, head of the Kurdistan Women's League, affiliated to the communist party. This was the organization that Nahla Hussein al-Shaly worked for in her fight for equal rights for women.
The Kurdistan Communist Party worked for a popular movement to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In 1995 it organized a meeting with the leadership of the Iraqi Communist Party that proposed working “towards the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his criminal junta, and establishing a democratic federal pluralistic Iraq". In 2002 the leader of the Kurdistan Communist Party denounced US occupation of Iraq saying that the United States was a "colonialist country", only interested in removing Saddam Hussein from power in order to dominate Iraq.
” In 2003, the Kurdistan Communist Party signed a communiqué with 22 other Iraqi political organizations opposing the provocations and planned invasion of southern Kurdistan by Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish troops remain mobilized and stationed on the border of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq. “The Kurdish nation stands firm against all invasions and will not kneel. It is ready to give whatever sacrifices it takes in order to stop the Turkish or any invasion of Kurdistan.”
An article in the Washington Post in 2006 reviewed the concerns of many Iraqi women regarding the threats made against them and the efforts to overturn the democratic rights of Iraqi women. One Baghdad woman in the article said: "For a woman, it's just like being in jail," she said. "I can't go anywhere."
Recently, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq made a statement in support of women’s rights. Ala Talabani, who heads the Iraqi Committee on Civil Society Institutions, said these groups need immediate social services with broader efforts aimed at providing women with adequate representation."Another key area that needs attention is educational reform to promote the role of men and women as equal citizens in society," she said. Meanwhile, Shirouk al-Abayachi, an activist with the Iraqi Women's Movement, called for the establishment of an independent National High Council for Women's Affairs to address empowerment issues."Parliament needs to approve the creation of such an independent committee," she said. "We need affirmative action based on international laws and conventions that guarantee the rights of women."
The message of the murderers of Nahla Hussein al-Shaly is clear. The city of Kirkuk is the focal point of the demands for the implementation of Article 140 to hold the Kirkuk Referendum. The murder of a representative of an organization long opposed to Saddaam Hussein and the Baathists is an effort to bring Saddam’s shadow into southern Kurdistan once again. The murder of an activist in defending the democratic rights of women is aimed at intimidating women organizing for equality.
Let the women of Kurdistan, Iraq and the world speak her name with reverence and speak of her life with pride and name their daughters after her. Show the world that no price is too high to pay for equality and tell the children of her sacrifice. Equality for women is a demand that impacts Arab and non-Arab, Sunni and Shi'a, Kurds and Iraqis and Assyrians and Turkomen, Christians and Moselms and Jews.
Let the picture of Nahla Hussein al-Shaly be placed with respect in the current exhibit sponsored by the Foundation for Martyrs of the Kurdish Movement in the autonomous province of Sulaimaniyah.
Let the Kurdish people sing their songs for liberation and and all workers mourn her murder with struggle against the dark forces of reaction.