UK, Canada, Netherlands and Germany highlight importance of preventing gender violence in Kurdistan

Diplomats of the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Germany underlined the importance of combating violence against women and girls.
The consulates of the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Germany organized an event for the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, Nov. 27, 2023 (Photo: Wladimir van Wilgenburg/Kurdistan 24)
The consulates of the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Germany organized an event for the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, Nov. 27, 2023 (Photo: Wladimir van Wilgenburg/Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The diplomatic missions of the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Germany held an event on Sunday in Erbil evening as part of the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The four countries also received the support of Dr. Khanzad Ahmad, Secretary General of the High Council for Women and Development, and Rebar Ahmed, the Interior Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in organizing the event.

Since 2008, the United Nations Secretary-General's UNITE to End Violence against Women campaign, themed "Orange the World," has annually advocated for global action against GBV.

As part of the event, the Erbil 1 Tower was illuminated in orange (Photo: Wladimir van Wilgenburg/Kurdistan 24)
As part of the event, the Erbil 1 Tower was illuminated in orange (Photo: Wladimir van Wilgenburg/Kurdistan 24)

As part of the event, the Erbil 1 Tower, also known as Zaniary Tower, the tallest tower in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, was illuminated in orange. Moreover, a panel was held with representatives of four non-governmental organizations: WOLA, the Lotus Flower, Gashbun, and NWE.

Furthermore, the KRG’s Council of Ministers building was also illuminated in orange.

Kate Shaw, the UK's Acting Consul General to Erbil, in a video message on the social media platform X, said “we shed light on the important issue of investing to prevent violence against women and girls, emphasizing the need for collective action and commitment by the people and government of the Kurdistan region and the international community.”

“The UK supports greater equality, justice and safety for women and girls in KRI (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) through funding and advocacy. Let's work towards a world where every woman and girl can live free from violence,” Shaw concluded.

The Acting German Consul General in Erbil, Benjamin Hanna, told Kurdistan 24 that Germany is  pursuing feminist foreign policy as was announced by the German foreign minister in March.

“This entails there should be the three R's, rights, resources and representation for women and marginalized groups and one part of it is to also raise the awareness against violence against women and girls and so we actively joined the 16 days against gender based violence.”

“The idea here in Kurdistan was to first have a visible sign against violence women and girls by lighting the highest tower in Iraq, the Erbil One Tower, for sixteen days, because orange is the color of this campaign,” the senior German diplomat noted.

Mr. Hanna added that another purpose of the campaign is to give a platform to the “four NGOs that are all supported by the four consulate generals that are involved in this campaign today, and giving them the platform to present what they are doing because the fight against [GBV] is first of all, not limited to Kurdistan but this is a problem all over the world or in our countries, that it has to be driven by both governments and civil society in the Kurdish region.” 

The Acting Consul General also expressed appreciation for the KRG, which "tries to champion this movement, because this is not something which only civil society or only the government can do and has to do, but both of them have to do. Important steps have been made also by the KRG, but as in most countries in the world, including my own, this is a topic which you don't reach a goal, but where you have to continue every day to further improve the situation because until now, unfortunately, there's still too much violence against women and girls in all countries, including also in Kurdistan, and in my country,” he continued.

“But as I said, the government of Kurdistan is really committed through its different institutions and not only regarding violence against women, but also women's representation and this is very encouraging,” the Acting Consul General concluded.

Tammy Ames, the head of the Canadian Embassy office in Erbil, told Kurdistan 24 that Canada supported the event “because we believe that women have to be part of the solution, without involving women, without them being a part of the dialogue around combating violence against women, we don't have a hope of actually making a change.”

“So we think here in Kurdistan I've met so many women who are active and want to make changes and are looking for a way forward. I think we here as diplomatic entities, we can help them, we can be their support, we can wave the flag and we can give them an opportunity like tonight where the NGOs had an opportunity to talk about the work they're doing on the ground. That is really important to us,” the senior Canadian diplomat added.

She also underlined the importance of the KRG supporting women’s rights. “Because without the government behind it, it just becomes a lot of talk and we think that the government has to implement the changes that are needed to make a difference, (...) but when people are arrested for committing violent acts against women, and also for instigating the education of communities about what's acceptable, what is the behavior we expect citizens to undertake? I think that's something the government has to be involved in,” she concluded.

Furthermore, the Dutch Consul General to Erbil, Jaco Beerends, also underlined that “this event for us, as partners of the KRG, important. We support it on a global level women rights and we fight actively against aggression against women and girls. Women and girls in conflict areas are often aware of the potential for transformation and reform. In periods of peacemaking, they often work intensively to be part of these processes. So for all these reasons, this is an important event for us.”

“And we still see that women and girls worldwide are still not sufficiently involved in peace and security processes or sufficiently protected before, during and after conflicts. So we wish to further cooperate on this subject,” Mr. Beerends concluded.

Read More: Women's freedoms increasing in Kurdistan Region, says KRG Interior Minister

Reber Ahmed, the Interior Minister, in a tweet also underlined he was proud to stand in solidarity with the global community during the 16 Days Of Activism against violence on women.

“Emphasizing the unwavering commitment of the Kurdistan to safeguarding women's rights and promoting equality. We aspire for a community free from violence, with zero tolerance for perpetrators.”