Prominent Kurdish women’s rights activist dies from coronavirus in Erbil
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Mahabad Qaradaghi, a 54-year-old highly-regarded Kurdish women’s rights activist and poet, died on Friday while being treated for the coronavirus at a hospital in Erbil.
Qaradaghi was born in 1966 in the district of Kifri in Diyala province and rose to prominence as one of the main Kurdish female poets and activists, starting from a young age. By the age of 14, she had already been imprisoned for her work.
“In April 1980, I was arrested by the former regime for writing resistance poetry and memories of Peshmerga in my diary notes,” she told Kurdistan 24 in a previous interview.
“I was first jailed in Baquba prison as I was transferred later to the General Security Directorate in Baghdad. I remember the night I was arrested as there was a heavy rain. I was forced to stand under the rain until dawn. I was forced to confess about my friends and colleagues.
In an academic paper on Kurdish female poets in 2018, Farhang Muzzafar Muhamad from Salahaddin University in Erbil wrote, “The memoirs and diary in which she wrote revolutionary poems were the reason why she was held by the Ba’athist regime. In isolation, she continued writing poems about peace, freedom and love.”
In a book entitled ‘A year in hell’ she wrote about her experiences.
“They put her tongue between the blades of a large and sharp pair of scissors and ordered her to acknowledge she had a relationship with Khalid Garmiyani, otherwise they would cut out her tongue. Garmiyani was a Kurdish Peshmerga, whom the regime was very afraid of,” said Moslih Aowni Saeid in the book’s introduction.
Qaradaghi later joined the Kurdish uprising of March 1991.
“At the dawn of the uprising when the drum of liberation and joy was bang of the city, I was in an ambulance in Kifri city, driving around the city and announcing through the microphone that the city was free,” she said, of her experiences. “I was telling the people ‘Kifri is free!’ and ‘The Baathists have vanished!’”
“People trusted the news of the fall when they heard my voice because I was a political prisoner and they knew me,” she explained.
In 1993, she fled to Sweden where she continued to write and publish books of poetry, novels, and sociological research.
After the 2003 fall of the former regime, Qaradaghi returned to the Kurdistan Region. After meetings with then-regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, she became his advisor on gender equality and women affairs.
Now Kurdistan Region President, Barzani said in a condolence message on Saturday, “It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Mahabad Qaradaghi; a poet, author, and activist. Mrs. Mahabad Qaradaghi served the Kurdish literature immensely. She was an ardent champion of women’s rights and an important part of the struggle of women in Kurdistan for gender equality. We highly value her works and activism.”
Deeply saddened by passing of poet, essayist & w/r activist Mahabad Qaradaghi. She contributed actively to gender equality program in @Kurdistan. Nothing breaks our heart more than not having had the opportunity to say goodbye b4 your departure. You will be always remembered. RIP pic.twitter.com/kb4RtcIiVD— Dr Nazand Begikhani (@NazandBegikhani) October 9, 2020
Nazand Begikhani, the Vincent Wright Chair Visiting Professor, Sciences Po, Paris, told Kurdistan 24, “Mahabad Qaradaghi is an important figure in Kurdish literature. Also, after returning from exile in 2005, she actively contributed to the gender equality program in the Kurdistan Region. We will remember her as a significant link in the long chain of women’s rights activism and policy-related achievement.”
Shortly after her death, some holding conservative views attacked her on social media, something Begikhani said “was systemically organised, mainly by extreme Islamic groups, but also by some members of opposition groups, accusing her of collaborating ‘with the authority.’”
“Analysed from a gender perspective it is deeply rooted in the patriarchal mentality and is similar to stoning to death or witch hunting, because Mahabad Qaradaghi was a secular feminist, a woman from a poor family background, a single mother and was overtly critical to Islam. Her different political belief should not be taken as a justification for such a concerted attack.”
“If she was a man, she wouldn’t have had to face such a hatred.”
Muhamad, from Salahaddin University in Erbil, described her as a “rebellious secular poet who is against the social, cultural and Islamic religious structures of the society she lives in; being in opposition to any rules of social style or behaviour imposed by religion.”
Editing by John J. Catherine
Additional Reporting by Halgurd Sherwani