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Kurdistan stands up against gender-based violence: Mariwan and the death of Shler Rasouli

Waving headscarves in the air in Aychi cemetery in Saqez, (Kurdistan, Iran), women and men chanted “women, life, freedom” to protest the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini under police custody. This moment fueled what would become the “Woman, Life, Freedom uprising” in Iran, followed by waves of countrywide protests initiated by women activists inside Iran. Since then, Kurdistan has played a significant role in the continuation of the movement. The day before her funeral in Kurdistan, protesters gathered in front of Kasra Hospital-where Jina died-chanting, “From Kurdistan to Tehran, stop the oppression of women.” This slogan emerged eight days before the revolt broke out in Kurdistan, where people held rallies to protest the tragic death of Shler Rasouli, a 38-year-old working-class woman who had thrown herself off a two-story building hoping to evade a rapist, Goran Qassempour. At the time of the incident, Shler’s husband was in Iraqi Kurdistan trying to earn a living. Notably, the assailant, Goran Qassempour, escaped after hurting and harassing several other women on his escape route. Unconfirmed reports say Goran Qassempour is an Intelligence Ministry agent in Marivan.

While the conservatives absurdly admired her for committing suicide to protect her virtue, women’s rights activists held a rally in front of the city court on September 6, to protest misogynous laws and demand security for women. On September 8, thousands of protesters attended her funeral and marched in the streets of Mariwan and chanted, “No to femicide, yes to life,” “Patriarchy and capitalism are the perpetrators of this crime,” “We are all Shler,” and “We want justice for Shler.” The presence of women in this rally was impressive. The people of Mariwan also chanted in support of these women. After the march, the protesters read a statement calling for a more orchestrated struggle to uproot violence against women:

Egalitarian men and women’s statement:

Yesterday, an unfortunate and dramatic incident shook our society, tugging at equality advocates’ hearts. In this tragic incident, another woman was victimized. Women’s victimization is deeply rooted in capitalist laws, reactionary forces, and patriarchal traditions. In a society where women are treated as the second sex and often considered as the possession of men, women are constantly subjected to violence, assault, killing, or forced to commit suicide. Without a doubt, the perpetrators should be held accountable. However, dispensing justice to individual perpetrators cannot prevent the repetition of such crimes. The ruling class that dominates society and culture through its power and wealth should stop patronizing thugs. We want to live in a more accessible and equal society where every woman is able to exercise their freedom and where men and women can live together peacefully. Undoubtedly, building such a society necessitates women’s and men’ class consciousness. Promoting gender equality and ending class oppression—among other intertwined forms of aggression and violence–involves class struggle and collective solidarity.

Viva equality for men and women!

No to violence and oppression against women!

Women-right activists’ statement (Sanandaj/Sena)

On September 8, a group of women’s rights activists gathered in Sanandaj to protest the death of Shler Rasouli and the lack of security for women in society. Below is the statement read by activists in front of the city’s court:

What brings us here today and makes us act is perfectly clear: this is systematic violence against women. Unfortunately, not only is there no mechanism to stop those in power from committing violence, but in an unwritten agreement, violence against women is normalized and there are no serious consequences for this type of crime. While it seems ubiquitous, for too long has sexual harassment been overlooked. While condemning this heinous act, we women urge all the human rights activists in Iran and in the world to break their silence and take a step forward in this regard. We ask all the security and judicial authorities not to underestimate the suffering of women who have been raped and to provide a safe environment for society by enforcing strict laws and deterring crimes by increasing the perception that criminals will be caught and punished.

We are seeking justice for Shler and all the victims of violence, and we condemn these inhuman actions.

Mariwan’s civil organization statement

Civil organizations and civil society activists in Mariwan collectively issued a statement denouncing the ongoing violence against women and systemic patriarchy. The death of Shler Rasouli, a Kurdish woman who was a victim of patriarchal violence and crime, was heartbreaking and tragic for her family, relatives and all men and women seeking liberation. Such a horrible crime is intolerable to the women and people of Kurdistan. We, the civil organizations of Mariwan, would like to express our profound sympathy and condolences to the family of Shler Rasouli and all noblemen and women. We appreciate all of you people–freedom and justice-seeking women and men, organizations and civil society of Mariwan-for defending the rights of the women victims and expressing your condemnation of this evil crime. You have turned another page in the history of the struggles of the Kurdish people in Mariwan on September 8.

Clearly, Shler Rasouli, like thousands of oppressed women in our society, was victimized by the patriarchal law and culture of society before she was victimized by a sick man. Far more terrifying than this is the way gender discrimination and class oppression work in tandem to situate women in our society. Therefore, it demands that all equality advocates, while supporting the victim’s family and the victim community, direct criticism towards discriminatory laws, the lack of legal protection for women, and the patriarchal culture within society. 

It has been obvious to all the people in Mariwan for years that the fearless presence of patronizing thugs and crooks has become a social phenomenon.  Operating under the protection of officials and their networks, they continue their assault on our natural resources while brutally attacking teachers who gathered several times this year to defend their legal rights. Unfortunately, the low transparency, and inefficient administrative structures with a high level of political dependence, made it easier for them to continue their criminal acts and victimize people in Mariwan from time to time.

Undoubtedly, the glorious protest on September 8, 2022, along with supporting Shler Rasouli and women victims of rape and other victims of insecurity, has a strong message against the government’s failure in defending the legitimate rights of citizens. This unforgettable gathering is a stark warning of the growing presence of thugs and the absence of public security. Our historical mission–all justice-seeking and freedom-fighting organizations–is to make every effort to eliminate discrimination against women and end insecurity for women and all citizens.

Civil Organization in Marivan, September 8, 2022

Mariwan Association for Culture and Literature
Assembly for Science and Culture
Chya, The Green Organization, Mariwan
Vejin, Culture and Arts Institute
Rojiar, Association for Culture and Literature
Xianweh, People’s Association for Preventing Addiction
Jin, Health Organization
Mariwan Association for Performative Arts
Kurdistan stands up against gender-based violence

Retrieved from: Radiozamaneh
Translated into English by: Tanide