Blaming the Feminists: Attempts to Debilitate a Movement

“The continuous condemnations, intended to defame, exhaust, and silence us, happen when we are still alive. But we also know that, like so many before us, our critics may misinterpret our actions or write us out of history after we die.” ~ Dr. Choman Hardi 

In an article published by LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security,  Dr. Choman Hardi recounts the struggles that the feminists of Kurdistan face. She specifically discusses the attempts made to undermine the feminist movement in the KRG. Progress has been seen in legal reform regarding family law, women’s protection from violence, and political participation. The provision of women’s services, positions of power, and the overall acknowledgment and visibility of women’s issues are collective changes that are evident. 

With respect to these achievements, there is still a wide array of issues, people, and misconceptions that become obstacles for further innovation and improvement. The lack of awareness from governmental institutions and the media are among the largest of the shortcomings. For instance, laws are not implemented, education systems fail to teach gender equality, and most importantly, the media’s negative involvement in belittling women, endorsing gender stereotypes, and stigmatizing issues relevant to women’s movements. 

The “two extremes” is another obstacle that the feminists of Kurdistan face. One of the extremes is that feminists such as Dr. Hardi are identified as “radical men-haters.” They are treated offensively and are accused of destroying social order, simply by demanding equal rights. The second group of extremes is composed of the diaspora feminists, who  claim that Kurdistan’s feminists are not “radical enough.”  Instead of the constant attack from fellow feminists, an alternative could be their assisting with current existing projects. An issue in Kurdistan is that there is a lack of available feminist literature in Kurdish. Therefore, various women don’t have access to sources to understand what feminism and the women’s movement entail. 

“I was keen to help address this shortage and we are now translating over 2000 pages of gender studies resources into Kurdish and Arabic, funded by the European Union. Diaspora colleagues could support this struggle by identify a need that they can address instead of attacking activists.”  ~Dr. Choman Hardi 

Various generalizations attempt to shift the true intent of the women’s rights movement in Kurdistan. First, it is assumed by many people that the protection of women and their rights are solely the responsibility of NGOs. It is not considered an obligation of both the community and government together as a whole. Second, the blame shifts from perpetrators who commit violence against women to feminists. So much of the blame is put on feminists and NGO’s for not executing a certain action deemed suitable by the public; the original crime becomes sidetracked and no longer a priority. Third, feminists are demonized, stereotyped, and thought of as inadequate. As a result, this image is extended to women as a whole. These generalizations collectively have a negative impact on all women.  

Link to the article: