According to the BBC’s Persian service, 66.3 percent of Iranian women experience violence in their lives, but Kurdistan Province and the city of Ahvaz are reported to be the two most violent cities for females. Photo: ISNA
TORONTO, Canada – About 88 percent of women in Iran’s Kurdistan Province reportedly experience some form of abuse, among the highest in the country.
According to the BBC’s Persian service, 66.3 percent of Iranian women experience violence in their lives, but Kurdistan Province and the city of Ahvaz are reported to be the two most violent cities for females.
The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
Despite the huge numbers of women living with abuse in Kurdistan Province, abusive men enjoy impunity under the patriarchal laws of Iran’s Islamic Republic.
The children of battered women are also victims of domestic violence. Witnessing spousal violence is regarded as a form of child abuse. Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.
Kajal, a 33-year-old senior government clerk in Sanandaj and the mother of a two-year-old, was repeatedly beaten by her unemployed husband. He demanded she hand over ownership papers to the family home and the car she bought with her earnings.
Azadeh, 21, a university student in Germany, told Rudaw she decided to leave Iran after seeing her older sister burst into her parents’ home with broken teeth, following a severe beating by her husband.
“Nobody has been able to stop him. My sister stays in that marriage to be with her children. Men have custody in Iran,” she explained.
Farah, 45, a physical education trainer in Sanandaj, set herself ablaze one year after her marriage.
“It was just a threat when I poured the gasoline on my body, but when he (the husband) dismissed me with indifference, I ended up lighting the match. That was 15 years ago. He divorced me and remarried. The burning marks are still persistent on my body,” she lamented.
It is feared that violence against women in Kurdistan is inevitably creating a more unhealthy society, since children are affected by domestic abuse. The children of abused women are likely to become victims or perpetrators of violence later in life.
An increase in the rates of violence against women is seen as proof that this behavior is not condoned by society.
Jafar Bolhari, a psychologist and expert in violence against women, believes that many women are “unaware of the crime committed against them.” Many consider receiving a slap by the husband or a verbal harassment as parts of life and not a form of oppression, he explained.
According to the Kurdpa news agency, in the Fall of 2013, 33 Kurdish women were reported to have experienced violence. Fifteen women committed suicide, eight were imprisoned (three of them activists) and seven were executed by the Iranian government.
Iran’s Kurdish regions are economically among the country’s most neglected areas.
Soraya Falah, a Kurdish women’s rights activist from Baneh who resides in Los Angeles, believes that the Iranian government promotes violence in the Kurdish regions by deliberately letting them flounder socially and economically.
Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Activists say that Kurdish men and women need to receive education about the definition of violence and its effects on women, children and society. They complain that the Iranian government does not seem to have any intention of raising awareness in this regard and only Kurds themselves can make a difference.