Prominent Kurdish figure and Iraq's first female judge dies at 82

Prominent Kurdish figure and former Iraqi judge Zakia Ismail Hakki. (Photo: Archive)
Prominent Kurdish figure and former Iraqi judge Zakia Ismail Hakki. (Photo: Archive)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Influential Kurdish figure Zakia Ismail Hakki, a former Iraqi lawmaker and the first female to serve as a judge in the Middle Eastern nation, died on Monday at a US hospital after struggling with illness for some time.

She completed her undergraduate studies in law at the University of Baghdad in 1957 and subsequently obtained a degree in Business Administration from a Swiss university in 1966. She then obtained a Master's degree in Law back at the University of Baghdad with honors in 1972, followed by learning her Ph.D. in International Law from an American university.

She worked as a lawyer until President Abdul Karim Qasim appointed her as the first female judge in Iraq and the greater Middle East in 1959. She rose in Iraqi government positions until becoming a pioneering member of the Kurdish revolution that erupted in 1974.

Hakki founded the Kurdistan Women's Union in 1952, serving as its president until 1975 and was also elected to the leadership committee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1970.

During the Kurdish revolution in 1974, she was elected as a member of the Special Legal Council to prepare a draft of a potential future constitution of Iraq and represented the KDP and the Kurdistan Women's Union in many international conferences.

She was subjected to persecution as a result of her political positions, being stripped of her position as a judge in 1962 for her participation in a demonstration calling for peace in Kurdistan and the cessation of military operations against the Kurdish people and their revolution.

As a result, she was placed under house arrest for a period of more than 21 years between 1975-1996 by the Ba'ath Party authority until her departure from Iraq to the United States, where she lived in exile.

She returned to Baghdad after 2003 to assume her duties as a senior advisor in the Ministry of Justice and an expert working to contribute to the modernization of Iraq's legal system.

She was appointed as Inspector General of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in March 2004 and then successfully ran for office in the Iraqi parliament, where she sat on the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Committee, the Sovereignty Committee, and the Committee for Drafting the New Iraqi Constitution. 

Editing by John J. Catherine