A delegation from the Consulate General of the United States in Erbil visited the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) on December 15, 2015. The delegation was headed by the Consul General in Erbil, Matthias Mitman, who was accompanied by Public Affairs Officer Anthony Deaton, Political Officer Matt Bushell, and Cultural Affairs Assistant Dler Hamad.
The Consul General held a meeting with AUIS Interim President, Dr. Esther Mulnix, at the start of their visit. The visitors were then taken on a short tour of the University, where they also had the opportunity meet a group of AUIS students. The informal discussion with the students mainly revolved around the diversity on campus, student organizations and activities, and opportunities for further studies, scholarships and professional development offered to the students in Iraq by the U.S. government.
The delegation members later took part in a roundtable discussion on women’s rights hosted by the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) at AUIS. The discussion, “Making our Activism Count for More”, was also attended by prominent members of the civil society in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The guests included AUIS board member Narmin Othman, journalist Koral Noori, academic and activist Bekhal Abubakir Hussein, women’s rights activist Bahar Munzir, Falah Shakarm from WADI, Sardasht Abdulrahman from UN Women National Program, and Chilura Hardi, founder of the Khatuzeen Center for Women in Erbil. Participants from AUIS included Dr. Choman Hardi, Christine van den Toorn, Ahmed Ali and Shiereen Saib.
The roundtable discussion focussed on the many socio-economic problems facing women in the Iraqi Kurdistan. Participants specifically highlighted the lack of implementation of laws protecting women from serious crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment and honour killing. The prevalent patriarchal traditions and rising extremism, including atrocities committed against women by Daesh, were cited as some of the most serious problems compounding the plight of women in the society. The participants agreed that a number of steps including stronger implementation of laws, education with focus on gender equality and economic empowerment of women are needed to improve the condition of women’s rights in Kurdistan. A full report of the discussion and recommendations is published by CGDS, Making our Activism Count for More: A Round Table Discussion.